Criminal Lawyer for Computer and Internet Crimes in West Palm Beach
The criminal lawyers of Suskauer Feuer, LLC, located in West Palm Beach, FL, provide criminal defense for those facing computer and internet crime charges.
Once upon a time, the Ten Commandments alone were sufficient to cover a vast array of the types of sins that humankind was known to commit – theft, murder, bearing false witness… As time went on, however, and society grew more and more complex, the laws of man had to evolve to keep up with the ever expanding list of wrongdoings of which a person could be found culpable.
Think about it. How old are all of our traffic laws, for example? Only as old as the automobile, itself. Yet, over the past hundred or so years, as cars became more ubiquitous, more and more people have committed misdeeds associated with their vehicles. The fact is, as technology advances, so does the possibility that each new invention may become capable of generating ever new types of offenses – for which there constantly needs to be new categories of crime and punishment.
Computers and the Internet
Today, it is apparent that computers and the internet are an indelible part of contemporary life. So, it shouldn’t surprise anyone how often these new inventions are used to commit crimes. Indeed, in the modern “information age,” computer crime now plays a significant role in the growth of illegal activities, and as a result has fostered a concomitant increase in the number of new laws promulgated to punish those who abuse and misuse this new technology.
Although computers are obviously less deadly, than say, an automatic machine gun, computer crimes can still cause devastating damage to individuals, businesses, civic institutions, and even national governments because of the speed in which they can be perpetrated and the wide range of their deleterious effects. And while some traditional crimes, such as theft, fraud, and forgery, for instance, can easily be exacerbated by the use of computers, other crimes are brand new: hacking, cyber stalking, web defacement, trafficking in passwords, “page-jacking,” etc.
Categories of Cybercrime
Computer crime, sometimes called cybercrime, refers to any criminal activity that involves the use of a computer as a communication device, a target, and/or a storage device.
For example, when used as a communication device, criminal activity involving a computer and the internet can include:
- Soliciting minors
- Propagating “worms, “viruses” and/or “malware”
- Trafficking in passwords
- Wire Fraud
- Transmitting copyrighted material
- Transmitting child pornography
- Money laundering
Computers as Targets
When a computer is a target, criminal activity can include:
- Unauthorized access
- Altering, deleting or stealing stored data
- Identity theft
- Access for fraudulent purposes
- Industrial espionage
- Infecting with worms, viruses and/or malware
- Cyber terrorism
- Cyber extortion
- Cyber warfare
When used as a storage device, criminal activity can include:
- The storing of child pornography
- The storing of incriminating evidence
- The storing of unauthorized data
The swiftly changing nature of computer technology, and the new offenses it continues to spawn, has made it difficult for governmental jurisdictions to keep up with the exploding growth of cybercrime. Added to that challenge is the fact that electronic data can just as easily, and quickly, traverse national and state borders as it can navigate across town. So the definitions, categories and potential punishments for cybercrime are nowhere near being standardized within and among countries.
In the US, both states and the federal government have laws that make various types of behavior involving computers illegal, and each has its own requirements and penalties. Some crimes are misdemeanors and some are felonies. Some convictions merely result in fines and/or probation, and some in prison terms.
There are several federal statutes that seek to define computer-related offenses, including:
- The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 (CFAA) prohibits seven different types of cybercrime, including: electronic espionage; unauthorized access; intentionally browsing in or affecting a government computer; using a computer for fraud or theft; transmitting damaging programs; interstate trafficking of passwords; and extortion threats made to a protected computer. This law includes both misdemeanor and felony provisions with different penalties depending on the specific conduct displayed.
- The Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA), 18 U.S.C. § 2510-22 criminalizes eavesdropping on all forms of digital communications.
- The Economic Espionage Act of 1996 focuses on the protection of trade secrets of businesses and the government.
- The Communications Decency Act of 1996 and the Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996 criminalize the luring of children via a computer and the transmission of child pornography.
- The No Electronic Theft Act of 1997 (NET Act) extended criminal copyright law to include the use of electronic means to steal copyrighted material.
- The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998 criminalizes identity theft.
Florida Computer Crime Laws
The Florida Computer Crimes Act (815 of the Florida Statutes) lists the various offenses that constitute criminal activity with respect to computers, computer systems, and computer networks in the State of Florida. It prohibits:
- Modifying, destroying, or stealing data, especially with respect to trade secrets and other intellectual property.
- Devising or executing schemes to defraud or obtain property via a computer or computer network.
- Unauthorized access.
- Damaging or destroying a computer, a computer system of computer network.
- Introducing a “contaminant” into any computer, computer system or computer network.
- Storing any data that is unlawfully obtained
Penalties for Computer-Related Crime in Florida
The penalties for computer crime in Florida depend on the specific offense:
- Hacking a computer or using intellectual property illegally qualifies as a third degree felony that is punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of $5,000, or both (or any higher amount equal to double the pecuniary gain derived from the offense by the offender or double the pecuniary loss suffered by the victim).
- If the damage caused is more than $5,000, or if the hacking interrupts government work, public service, or leads to theft or fraud, the crime is considered a second degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, a fine of $10,000, or both (or any higher amount equal to double the pecuniary gain derived from the offense by the offender or double the pecuniary loss suffered by the victim).
- If the crime causes or could have caused loss of life, the crime is considered a felony in the first degree and a conviction can lead to life imprisonment.
- (Any unauthorized modification of equipment or supplies intended to be used in a computer, a computer system, or a computer network is considered a misdemeanor of the first degree.)
Contact an aggressive criminal defense lawyer that is experienced with cyber and computer-related charges in West Palm Beach
If you have questions regarding computer or internet-related crimes, please do not hesitate to contact us for a free consultation so we can review your case. We are happy to meet or speak with you anytime. Our legal team is experienced, aggressive, compassionate, and will fight for your rights!