Technology is extremely complicated and so too are the criminal statutes surrounding it. Federal and state governments take aggressive approaches to crimes involving the Internet, smartphones, and computers. Otherwise small-scale charges are sometimes ramped up to serious offenses simply because somebody’s computer was involved.
If you have been charged with a cybercrime (that is, any crime allegedly committed over the Internet or while using any computing device), you need a legal advocate who has an in-depth understanding of cybercrime, which is an especially complex area of criminal law. Attorney Kassius Benson at Kassius Benson Law, P.A. understands the many technologies implicated by cybercrime laws. Don’t make the mistake of trusting your life in the hands of someone who promises they’ll “figure it out.” Hire someone who has.
There are two broad categories of cybercrimes. One type of cybercrime occurs when a computer is improperly used to inflict viruses, worms, etc., into another computer or computer network when done intentionally to cause damage to an employer, a specific company, or to an individual This type of cybercrime is often referred to as “Hacking.” A second type occurs when a computer is used as an instrument to commit a crime, such as child pornography, mail or wire fraud, or identity theft.
In 1984 Congress passed the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which centralized computer crimes under one statute and extended the Act’s protection to all computers used in interstate and foreign commerce, which would include every computer connected to the internet. Courts have held that smartphones are computers for purposes of the Act. A separate federal statute prohibits cyberstalking.
The Act creates seven different categories of computer related crime dealing with unauthorized computer access. The statute covers:
(1) computer espionage (gaining access to government computers to obtain classified information);
(2) protecting confidentiality of computer data (to punish unauthorized browsing through private financial and credit files, making it a crime to gain access to a computer without authorization for the purpose of obtaining information and financial records of a financial institution or a credit reporting company, information from a government department or agency, or information from a “protected computer,” defined as a computer used exclusively by a financial institution or the U.S. government);
(3) unauthorized access to government computers (unlike other categories, this punishes for simply accessing a government computer);
(4) computer fraud (making it a crime to gain access and fraudulently use a protected computer to obtain anything valued at more than $5,000 in any one year period);
(5) the “virus statute” (which prohibits transmission of any program to intentionally cause damage to a protected computer);
(6) password trafficking; and
(7) computer extortion.
In many cybercrime cases, it may be a defense that the defendant actually had authorization at the time he gained access to the relevant device. In some situations, it is a defense if nothing of value was obtained. However, federal prosecutors may use alternative statutes to charge an individual, such as the Economic Espionage Act (protecting against trade secret theft), the National Stolen Property Act (to cover the theft of computer hardware and software), mail and wire fraud, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (prohibiting unauthorized interception of computer communications such as emails); and the Child Pornography Prevention Act (which prohibits the distribution and possession of child pornography).
In state court, cybercrimes include computer damage (intentionally destroying or damaging someone else’s computer or computer system or altering someone else’s computer system in order to injure or commit fraud, distributing “deconstructive computer programs” such as viruses, worms, etc., with the intent to damage another computer system); computer theft (gaining access to a computer system to obtain services or money); unauthorized access (gaining unauthorized computer access in an attempt to penetrate a computer security system; however, it is also a crime to aid someone else to gain access to a computer security system knowing that person intends to commit a crime); and encryption (it is a crime to use encryption in order to commit or conceal a crime). Finally, it is a crime to use a computer to sexually solicit a minor or possess and distribute child pornography.
The truth is that ordinary people make innocent mistakes online every day. Computers are complicated and confusing, and the Internet can prey on vulnerability or naiveté in even the best of people.
Too often, prosecutors and police try to target someone’s simple slip of judgment, an accident, or a misunderstanding and turn it into a major crime, using aggressive statutes to escalate the charges.
Kassius Benson understands how frightening, embarrassing, and unfair these charges can be. As an experienced lawyer, he keeps his finger on the pulse of today’s popular and emerging technologies. He can provide an aggressive and effective legal defense for those who may be facing serious penalties.
Time matters. If you have been charged with an Internet or computer crime or you are under investigation for such a crime, taking early action makes it possible to protect your rights more effectively. Attorney Kassius Benson has worked hard on behalf of many clients to discourage prosecution before they are charged. He has produced a significant track record of success during his decades of practice, having tried more than 150 cases statewide and nationwide.
You can ensure that your rights and reputation are protected by contacting KASSIUS BENSON LAW, P.A. at 612.333.2755.