Computer crimes are on the rise all across the country. Sarasota County, Florida, is no exception. With this rise in cybercrime comes an increase in people charged with offenses against computer users, often without justification or legal standing.
There are many ways that a person can defend against these types of charges. You may have had the authorization to access a computer network or may have unwittingly aided another person in the pursuit of criminal actions. A computer, computer system, computer network, or electronic device can be surprisingly easy to hack, and responsibility can be passed onto other people via intricate scape-goating measures.
If you have been charged with an offense against computer users, contact criminal defense lawyer in Sarasota as soon as possible. The defense for your case must be prepared quickly to adequately pursue all defensive measures possible. The Law Place is here to help. We offer a free case consultation where our fee structure and information about possible defense strategies will be explained in depth.
Contact The Law Place to speak with a criminal defense lawyer today at (941) 444-4444.
What Are Considered Offenses Against Computer Users?
Florida Statute 815.06 defines what is legally considered to be an offense against computer users. Essentially, accessing, denying access to, or contaminating a computer, computer system, computer network, or electronic device willfully, knowingly, and without permission is a crime. This is a major offense carrying severe penalties for the person caught perpetrating these acts.
If you have any questions regarding what constitutes an offense against computer users or are afraid you may be charged for a computer crime, don’t hesitate to reach out to The Law Place. We’ll walk you through how your actions may be interpreted and what consequences you could face, if any.
Offense Against Computer Users Legal Definitions
It is important to understand what the legal definitions for many of the terms listed above are. Sometimes they may encompass aspects of computer crimes that you are unaware of. All of these can be found in Florida Statute 815.03.
- Computer – A device that is programmed to automatically process information.
- Access – Instructing, communicating with, storing data in, receiving data from, or otherwise making use of the information or resources available in a computer, computer system, or computer network.
- Data – A representation of information, facts, knowledge, computer programs, software, or instructions in any form, electronic or physical.
- User – The person or people with authority to make use of or maintain a computer or computer system.
- Computer network – An electronic medium of communication between computer systems. This includes the physical or wireless connection of peripheral technology such as printers, monitors, or other electronic devices to the computer system.
- Computer program or software – A set of instructions or statements meant to instruct a computer or computer system to perform a specified task or set of tasks.
- Computer services – The time, data processing, or storage functions of a computer or computer system.
- Electronic device – A tool or appliance that is designed for and has the ability to communicate across a computer system to transmit, receive, or store data.
- Computer contaminant – Any set of electronic instructions meant to destroy, damage, record, or otherwise disrupt or modify the normal functions of a computer or computer system.
- Intellectual property – Data or computer programs belonging to a person or a corporate entity.
- Property – Anything of tangible or intangible value.
- Financial instrument – Checks, drafts, money orders, credit cards, certificates of deposit, letters of credit, marketable security, or any other form of monetary guarantee.
Penalties for Offenses Against Computer Users
Offenses against computer users don’t just apply to people, but computer networks and electronic devices as well. As per Florida’s Computer Crimes Act, we can understand the following activities can result in charges being brought against potential defendants:
- Interrupting or stopping the transmission of data to or from an authorized user.
- Accessing a computer, electronic device, computer system, or computer network without authorization or beyond the scope of confirmed authorization.
- Wrecking, injuring or stealing a computer or equipment and supplies used for computers or an electronic device.
- Introducing contaminants to a computer, electronic device, computer system, or computer network.
- Unauthorized surveillance of audio or visual input or output of a computer user or third-party information.
These crimes are all considered third-degree felonies, punishable by up to five years in prison and a maximum of $5,000 in fines. However, five years is not the maximum sentence for these types of crimes.
Charges can be upgraded to second-degree felonies if one or all of the following were committed in tandem with the actions listed above:
- More than $5,000 in property damage.
- Intention to defraud computer users or obtain property from relevant users or associated third parties.
- Destroyed, disrupted, or otherwise negatively affected public transport, communications, infrastructure, water supply, or government project/ opportunity.
Felonies in the second-degree are punishable by up to fifteen years in prison and a maximum of $10,000 in fines.
For particularly severe computer crimes, charges can be upgraded even further to first-degree felonies. These are some of the most serious charges anyone can have brought against them and carry extremely severe sentences. The following constitutes a felony in the first degree:
- Endangering a human life by contaminating, accessing, or denying access to a computer or computer system.
- Disrupting, destroying, contaminating, or denying access to medical equipment used to administer health care.
Many computer crimes committed against hospitals, medical clinics, or private physicians are first-degree felony charges. These are punishable by up to thirty years in prison and $15,000 in fines.
All of these acts must be carried out willfully, knowingly, and without authorization to be considered offenses against computer users. If someone is unaware that their actions are illegal or do not know that they don’t have authorization or permission, they may be able to avoid these types of charges. However, it is difficult to prove ignorance in these types of cases.
If you have been charged with first, second, or third-degree felony offenses against computer users, contact The Law Place as soon as possible. We have established an excellent attorney-client relationship in Sarasota and across the State of Florida based on trust and exceptional knowledge of Florida computer crime law.
Is It Illegal to Use a Computer Without Permission?
According to the statutes listed above, it is illegal to utilize a computer, computer system, computer network, or electronic device without permission. A person must authorize you to use their property.
It is not often that a person is charged with offenses against computer users for benign reasons. Typically, there needs to be damage, or property, either tangible or intangible, must have been stolen or compromised. Using your friend’s computer to surf Facebook isn’t something that prosecutors would pursue criminal charges against.
However, using a computer or tapping into a computer network of a company or government authority without permission is where things can become serious. Quite often, these systems have sensitive information stored in them, and any unauthorized access is scrutinized thoroughly.
As a rule of thumb, you should never use a computer without the permission of the owner or relevant user. Your reasons may have been innocent, but companies become especially sensitive to these sorts of issues where their intellectual property is involved.
Can Offenses Against Computer Users Charges Be Dismissed?
A qualified Sarasota criminal defense attorney will address offense against computer user charges in several ways. Any evidence the prosecution presents must be examined and probed thoroughly by investigators of the defense team. If there are any discrepancies in the prosecution’s case, it may mean the dismissal of charges.
If you were acting within the legal scope of your employment, unauthorized or otherwise illegal access to a computer or computer system can be disputed. For example, someone might request charges against you for an independent investigation into their online financial transactions to negate their wrongdoing. A criminal defense attorney can argue that you were acting within the parameters of your employment by accessing their computer, computer network, or data.
One study found that nearly 95% of malware attacks on publically-traded companies occurred via email. You could have been the unwitting accomplice of a hacker who used your email as a trojan horse for their cyber-attack. You cannot be charged for something you did not know was occurring.
Police who arrest suspected offenders against computer users may not have all of the relevant information at their disposal. You may have been acting under the authority of a separate government entity, and the local police or officials of another federal agency may not be aware of the operation. You can be charged based on the facts they have at hand. Your lawyer will argue that you were authorized to commit these acts under the jurisdiction of relevant security operations clearance.
These are just a couple of the ways in which a criminal defense attorney can help get your charges dismissed. However, often these types of crimes are committed without such authorization from relevant authorities. Your lawyer will have to prove that you unwittingly committed these crimes or discredit the prosecution’s burden of evidence. Either way, it will be a hard process, and you need a qualified and experienced law firm to help you.
Contact The Law Place as soon as possible to start strategizing possible avenues for your defense.
Can I Be Sued for Offenses Against Computer Users?
Since an offense against computer users is considered a criminal charge, you can’t be sued for this specifically. However, victims may wish to pursue civil court action against you for a range of reasons stemming from the effects the crime had on them.
For example, if someone has their personal data hacked and compromising information is released to the public, the victim may have legal recourse in civil court. The perpetrators can be sued for emotional distress or pain and suffering if certain criteria are met.
In short, you can be sued for civil damages in addition to the criminal charges the state or federal government can bring against you. It is important that your law team is aware of this and prepares for any possibility of a civil court case in addition to your criminal trial.
The Law Place has experience in both civil and criminal court trials and can provide an exceptional attorney-client relationship across our legal team. We are prepared to fight the prosecution in a criminal case as well as any potential plaintiffs in a civil case. If you were charged with breaking into a computer, computer system, or electronic device, don’t hesitate to contact us any time, day or night.
How Can a Sarasota, FL., Computer Crimes Lawyer Help Me?
Here at The Law Place, we pride ourselves on our ability to provide outstanding criminal defense for our clients. We have teams of investigators that will comb through every detail of your charges and help provide the legal basis for a case dismissal.
In addition to the methods listed in the section above, The Law Place will search for non-traditional defenses for these sorts of crimes. Computer crime laws are consistently falling behind modern advances in technology. Our firm is at the forefront of computer crime defensive law and will go beyond the precedent that has been set in previous cases.
Not only that, but our attorneys have established relationships with the Sarasota County court system. We can navigate the complex legalities of an offense against computer users case. You can rest easy knowing your defense is in excellent hands.
Contact The Law Place Criminal Defense Attorney Attorneys Today!
Have you been charged with an offense against computer users in Sarasota, FL? Are you afraid of the possibility of jail time and the loss of your livelihood and reputation?
If you did not willfully, knowingly, and without authorization, commit this crime, you have a chance at legal recourse.
Contact The Law Place today to discuss how we can help your case. Our firm has over 75 years of combined experience representing clients throughout Sarasota County in cases similar to yours. While each case is unique, we can provide legal advice from our past experiences to help you through this trying time.
We offer a free consultation with one of our qualified attorneys at no cost or commitment to you. Our lines are open 24/7, and our representatives are waiting to hear from you today.
Contact The Law Place now at (941) 444-4444.