The dynamic advances in computer and communication technology has been closely followed by the evolution of new criminal offenses in the digital age. In many homes, computer activity can be observed at almost any time of the day with multiple computers engaging in online activity simultaneously. However, the increased sophistication of electronic communication and the vast reach of the Internet also has created new economic opportunities, including many that lie outside the spectrum of lawful business practices.
Have you committed a computer crime?
The rapid changes which characterize the computer industry and web universe mean that the law is constantly evolving in an attempt to keep pace. This constant evolution of legal standards and computer-based crimes makes it difficult to keep a handle on specific types of conduct that constitute a criminal offense under Minnesota or Federal law. Many people do not even realize their conduct constitutes a criminal offense. In other cases, individuals are unaware of the ease with which the government can track their online activities or reconstruct their keystrokes on a computer. This blog post provides some examples of common computer offenses that can carry serious repercussions.
Unauthorized Computer Access (Hacking)
The criminal offense of “hacking” involves intentionally circumventing computer data protection systems and/or software to gain access to protected data. This criminal offense typically constitutes a misdemeanor that is punishable by a maximum of up to 90 days in county jail and a maximum fine up to $1,000. However, there are aggravated versions of this offense than can constitute a gross misdemeanor, which carries a more severe punishment. When hacking activity threatens public safety or health, the charge can carry a punishment of up to ten years of imprisonment and a maximum fine of up to $20,000.
Identity Fraud (Phishing)
While identity fraud is an offense that can happen in the real world and in cyberspace, law enforcement authorities usually will obtain a warrant or the prosecutor will issue a subpoena to obtain the accused’s internet device history. If you are convicted of identity fraud that involves use of a computer, the offense can result in a period of incarceration of up to ten years in the penitentiary and a maximum fine of up to $50,000. Further, any stolen property or information must be returned or the offender must pay restitution.
Damaging a Computer (Circulating a Virus)
When an individual engages in an act that alters, damages, distributes, or destroys a computer program (e.g., malware) with the intent to destroy or damage a computer, software, network, or other property, the individual can face criminal charges for computer damage.
While these state crimes can have serious consequences that impact your reputation, future job opportunities, immigration status, and liberty, an individual also might face Federal charges if his or her actions involve “interstate commerce.” Because this phrase is construed broadly, the risk of facing the mandatory minimums and harsh federal sentencing guidelines constitute a serious threat which can result in more severe penalties.
If you have been charged with a computer crime or you are the target of an investigation, we invite you to speak to a Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney at Gerald Miller, P.A. as soon as possible. The sooner you contact us the sooner we can start protecting your rights. Contact us today to schedule your free and confidential case evaluation.