Arrested for a Computer Crime?
How a Computer is Defined Under the Law
The first step in understanding this particular category of crimes is to
understand what a computer actually is according to state law. A computer,
as defined by §156.00 of the New York Penal Code, is any device which—by
manipulation of electronic, magnetic or other impulses—with a computer
program, can automatically perform arithmetic, logical, storage, or retrieval
operations with computer data.
While many of these terms have their own definitions, in today’s
technological age, a computer is more than merely the box in your office
or the laptop in Starbucks. In fact, a computer could be in your pocket
right now doubling as your cell phone or your MP3 player. The next question
is whether the computer is the target of the crime or the computer is
being used as a means to perpetrate a particular.
Either way, law enforcement can use the same tools, like search warrants,
preservation letters, subpoenas, and even tracking devices, to investigate
Types of Computer Crimes
The first category of offense is where the computer itself is the target
of the offense. Such an example would be unauthorized use of a computer.
As defined by §156.05, this crime occurs when an individual accesses
a computer without permission to do so. This might be as straight forward
as a person seeking names, dates of birth or social security numbers of
other people stored on an office computer.
Although the computer is password protected, the person manages to bypass
the protection and get access to the system and the personal identifying
information. Unauthorized use of a computer is an A misdemeanor, which
is punishable by up to one year and jail. There are also more serious
offenses such as computer tampering in the first degree, which is punishable
by up to 15 years state prison.
This offense merely requires that a person use or causes to be used a computer
or computer service without a right to do so and intentionally alters
or damages computer data or a computer program, and subsequently causes
damage exceeding $50,000. The second type of offense that is often described
as a computer crime is one where the computer is the tool used to perpetrate
For example, an individual might use a computer to create fraudulent identifications
or counterfeit currency or credit cards. This is not necessarily a “computer
crime,” but would be at minimum, criminal possession of a forged
instrument in the second or first degree, which are both felonies. In
these cases, the resulting crime may be just as severe, and it often makes
little difference if a computer was used.
Call Tilem & Associates, PC for Help
Because of the growing trend of crimes in this area and the sophistication
by which people commit these crimes, law enforcement spends a great deal
of energy and money investigating and prosecuting them. With tools that
enable investigators to easily retrieve deleted data from a person’s
computer and secure emails without the owner of the account knowing, it
is important to retain experienced counsel.
Contact our White Plains criminal defense office today at (888) 840-0043 to set up a free consultation.