Computer Criminal Activity
What is popularly known as "hacking" into another person's computer, or illegally accessing their personal information, is a crime. There are many factors that affect the level and punishments for the crime, but all are significant. All are indictable crimes; none are disorderly persons offenses.
A person is guilty of computer criminal activity if the person purposefully or knowingly without permission commits one of the following acts:
- Accesses any data, data base, software, or any other information stored on a computer. This is a crime of the third degree, punishable by 3-5 years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines. Disclosing the information accessed results in similar penalties.
- Destroys or changes any data stored in a computer, or disrupts computer services, such as the Internet, that are available to the owner of the computer. A violation of this law is a crime of the second degree, which can result in 5-10 years in prison and up to $150,000 in fines.
- Accesses or attempts to access any data with the intent of defrauding the owner of said data of services, property, personal information, or money. This is a crime of third degree, unless the value of the obtained information is greater than $5,000, in which case the crime is upgraded to one of the second degree.
- Obtains or uses any data found by accessing a data base, software, computer equipment, or any other data related storage. This is a crime of the third degree, unless:
- data contains personal information, medical diagnoses or other medical information
- data contains government records or information protected from disclosure by law
- data has a value exceeding $5,000
- Accesses and recklessly damages or destroys any information found on a computer or computer network. This is a crime of the fourth degree unless the value of the damage is greater than $5,000, in which case it constitutes a third degree crime
- Revealing information so obtained is a crime of the third degree; it is a crime of the second degree if the information is protected from disclosure by law.
All of the aforementioned crimes can be upgraded to a first degree criminal charge, punishable by 10-20 years in prison and up to $200,000 in fines, if the offense results in:
- A substantial interruption or impairment of public communication, transportation, or supply of any public service. Substantial means that:
- 10 or more structures are affected
- Delay lasts for two or more hours
- A risk of death or bodily injury is created for anyone;
- Damage greater than $250,000; or
- Significant bodily harm to anyone.
Anyone found guilty of a first degree crime in this manner will serve one-third to one-half of their sentence with no chance of parole.
If the victim of the computer crime is a government agency, then the sentence will include imprisonment. The defendant will not be eligible for parole during the first one-third to one-half of his sentence, no matter the degree of crime. If the data stolen is in any way controlled or maintained by or on behalf of federal, state, or local governments, then a government agency is considered the victim. Even if the defendant did not know he was taking information from a government agency he is still liable for his crimes.
Each subsection of this statute is a crime unto itself, and a conviction for one subsection will not merge with one of another. A separate sentence will be imposed for each subsection violated.
If a minor is a victim of one of these crimes, it is considered an aggravating circumstance (a circumstance which adds to the guilt of the accused), which will then be considered by the court in determining the sentence.
If you have been charged with any of these offenses involving computer criminality, contact the defense team of LS&P Lawyers at (908) 709-0500. We are available 24/7 for a consultation.