A Michigan man who used a local café's Wi-Fi connection from his parked car to check his email and surf the web has been fined $400 and ordered to work 40 hours of community service.

And he got off easy, according to the local TV station that reported the case. Under Michigan computer access law, using a Wi-Fi connection without authorisation is a felony, punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and a maximum of five years in prison.

But the story raises more questions than it answers, including whether the café's Wi-Fi connection was a fee-based service, which would imply that authorisation was required, or a free service that, without any security restrictions, could be accessed by anyone within range, including someone outside the restaurant. The story also doesn't say whether the defendant, Sam Peterson II, was convicted of the crime or pled to the charge.

Peterson routinely drove to the Re-Union Street Cafe to check his email but never went into the coffee shop. His regular routine drew the attention of police chief Andrew Milanowski, who asked Peterson what he was doing. Peterson told him. After checking the Michigan statutes, the chief swore out a complaint of fraudulent computer access.