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Jaynes v. Commonwealth

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Citation Edit

Jaynes v. Commonwealth, 48 Va. App. 673, 634 S.E.2d 357 (2006) (full-text).

Factual Background Edit

Defendant, Jeremy Jaynes, used computers in his home in North Carolina to send over ten thousand e-mails, on each of three different days, to subscribers of AOL, an ISP that provides e-mail accounts as part of its service through its servers located in Virginia. On July 16, 2003, appellant sent 12,197 pieces of unsolicited bulk e-mail with falsified routing and transmission information onto AOL's proprietary network. On July 19, he sent another 24,172 similarly falsified e-mails, and he followed on July 26 with an additional 19,104. Each message targeted an AOL subscriber. That the sender knew each proposed recipient was an AOL subscriber was clear because the e-mail addresses of all recipients ended in “@aol.com.”

The messages advertised one of three products: either a FedEx claims product, a stock picker, or a "history eraser." To purchase one of these products, potential buyers would click on a hyperlink within the e-mail which redirected them to a website. Notably, this redirection led to thousands of different websites, rather than a single one, to consummate the purchase.

Among those items seized during a search of appellant's home were compact discs (CDs) containing both user names and full e-mail addresses. The CDs contained at least 176 million full e-mail addresses and over 1.3 billion user names.

Appellant also possessed a DVD containing not only AOL e-mail addresses, but also other personal and private account information for millions of AOL users. Finally, police collected multiple “zip discs” (another type of data storage device) containing 107 million AOL e-mail addresses. All of the AOL user names, e-mail addresses, and account information were stolen and illegally in Defendant’s possession.

To aid his deception, Defendant registered numerous different domain names using false contact information through Network Solutions, whose offices are located in Virginia. The contracts between Defendant and Network Solutions required that Defendant provide accurate contact information, update contact information when it changed, and submit to jurisdiction in Virginia for resolution of any contract disputes between Defendant and Network Solutions.

Trial Court Proceedings Edit

Jaynes was charged with three counts of violating the unsolicited bulk electronic mail provisions of the Virginia Computer Crimes Act (VCCA). The jury convicted him on all counts.

Appellate Court Proceedings Edit

On appeal, Jaynes maintained that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over this case, the VCCA violated the First Amendment, the VCCA violated the Dormant Commerce Clause, and that the statute is unconstitutionally vague.

Jaynes contended that the trial court lacked jurisdiction because he could not control the pathways his messages took. Further, he argues that the VCCA violated the First Amendment because the law is overbroad and because its language prohibits anonymous speech of a non-commercial nature and that the First Amendment protects such speech. Jaynes maintained that the VCCA violate the Dormant Commerce Clause because it regulates transactions that take place outside Virginia’s jurisdiction.

The appellate court found that the trial court had jurisdiction because the e-mails had to pass through the internet service provider's e-mail servers, all of which were in the trial court's jurisdiction in Virginia. Further, the court found that the statute used to charge him did not violate the First Amendment since it did not regulate speech. The court held that the Dormant Commerce Clause had not been violated because Virginia did have a legitimate local public interest in the VCCA and any burden to interstate commerce was incidental and clearly not excessive.

Last, the appellate court held that the statute was not unconstitutionally vague because the language in the VCCA was not so vague that a person of ordinary intelligence could fail to understand its meaning.

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