Defending Against Computer or Internet Crime Charges

Computer or internet-related crimes include fraud, embezzlement, identity theft, and sex crimes.  If you have been charged with one of these crimes in the state of California, it is imperative that you reach out to a skilled and experienced California criminal defense attorney. To convict you of a computer or internet-related crime, the prosecutor must establish the elements necessary to make the causal connection between you and the alleged wrongdoing.  An experienced attorney will explore all avenues of reasonable doubt with regard to the elements of the criminal charge.   With your freedom and reputation at stake, rely on a skilled attorney to defend you against the charges levied by the state.

Computer fraud is prohibited on both state and federal levels. On the federal level, the crime is codified by the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). Under the law, computer fraud occurs when the following four elements are proved:

  • The defendant has accessed a protected computer;
  • The defendant has accessed the protected computer without authorization or by exceeding the scope of any authorization that was granted;
  • The defendant’s access was done knowingly and with the intent to defraud;
  • The defendant’s efforts actually furthered the intended fraud and obtained something of value.

Fans of the popular television series Mr. Robot will immediately recall the show’s titular character when pondering these four elements, as their commission is what the show is all about.  While the elements may seem relatively simple, do not be deceived. Each word is loaded with legal meaning and is ripe ground for dispute and interpretation. The first word that jumps out is “protected.” Does this word simply equate to “personal?” What kinds of computers are “unprotected?” Is a computer only considered “protected” if a passcode is required to access it?

Even the word “computer” is subject to debate. The days of the old desktop computer are long gone, and today many individuals use laptops, smart phones, tablets, and other devices to do the same type of computing that was done on desktop computers a few years ago.

“Scope,” addressed in the second element of a computer fraud charge, depends upon the specific circumstances in question. As an employee or provider of technical support, one may have a certain amount of legitimate access to an otherwise protected computer. In other words, there is “restricted access.” Determining when one has crossed the line from legal to illegal access can be difficult.

Finally there is intent – an element of many criminal charges. If you are charged with computer fraud in the state of California, the prosecutor will have to prove that it was your purpose and goal to obtain illicit access to a protected computer. Not only that, but the prosecution will have to prove that you obtained the access you intended and that you used the access to perpetrate fraud. Without the establishment of these elements, you cannot be convicted. To mount the strongest possible defense against the court’s criminal charges, rely on a skilled and experienced California criminal defense attorney.