Computer crimes (Title 18, Chapter 76 http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/LI/consCheck.cfm?txtType=HTM&ttl=18&div=0&chpt=76) are often highly sophisticated and difficult to trace. Most members of law enforcement are not as familiar with how computers work as the people they are prosecuting for these computer crimes. Additionally, sometimes the law has not caught up with the advances in technology that allow for these computer crimes to occur.
This, however, can be to your benefit if you have been charged with a computer crime, including hacking information services, stealing identities, or sending viruses through the Internet to other people’s computers. An experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney can help you fight these charges with solid defenses, such as lack of evidence or consent by the owner of the computer.
Computer Crimes Generally
Pennsylvania law considers unauthorized activities regarding a computer or unauthorized access to a computer to be an illegal criminal act. It also prohibits illegally interfering with data on computers.
In order to successfully convict someone of a computer crime, prosecutors must prove that the defendant intentionally or knowingly engaged in the illegal activity. A conviction of a computer crime is a third degree felony, which can result in imprisonment of up to seven years and a fine of up to $15,000. The court may also order you to pay restitution to the victims.
Stealing or possessing someone else’s identity without their consent to further some kind of unlawful purpose is considered criminal activity in Pennsylvania. Identity theft is punishable by a misdemeanor of the first degree if the theft involved property valued at less than $2000, and by a felony of the second degree if the theft involved property valued at $2000 or more. This means facing up to 10 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.
How to Protect Yourself from Computer Crimes
Be sure you have antivirus software installed on your computer. Be careful about the websites that you visit and that you provide any personal or financial information to. And do not download anything from an unknown or unfamiliar source.
If you have been charged with a computer crime in Pennsylvania, call our experienced criminal defense lawyers today.