Charges of Unlawfully Obtaining Information from Protected Computer

There are several applicable federal laws that are used to initiate charges against individuals who have committed various types of computer fraud. Because the potential consequences of these charges are particularly serious, individuals faced with these types of charges should not hesitate to retain the services of a talented defense attorney.

Applicable Law Concerning these Charges

Federal law criminalizes the unauthorized access of different kinds of computers and information. The element of this type of offense include the following essential elements:

  • Intent. An individual must have intended to access the protected computer. Behavior that is careless, inadvertent, or mistaken does not satisfy this requirement.
  • Improper Authorization. The individual must have either lacked authorization to access this computer or gone beyond the scope of what type of tasks the individual was allowed to perform on the computer. Excessive authorization cases involve individuals who have some authorization to use a computer or internet network, but individuals without authorization at all are often hackers. To satisfy this charge for cases of individuals who have exceeded authorization, prosecution often must demonstrate that an individual had limited authority as well as show how the individual’s activity exceeded that authority. Exceeding authority cases are particularly difficult if no explicit or implicit restrictions existed.
  • Computer’s Owner. The computer in question must have belong to a financial institution like a bank, the United States government, or any other type of protected computer. Determining whether a computer belongs to the United States government or a financial institution is much easier than determining whether a computer is “protected”. A protected computer is most often interpreted to be any computer used in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce. In a large number of cases, a computer’s internet connection is enough for the federal government to find that the computer had interaction with multiple states. A protected computer can also include a computer outside the United States provided the computer impacts interstate commerce.
  • Obtain Information. Information must have been obtained by the individual and can include downloading, copying information, or merely observation information on a computer.

Potential Consequences of these Charges

In almost every situation, charges start under this applicable law as misdemeanor. Aggravating factors have the potential to increase the severity of the crime to a felony. One aggravating factor is the monetary worth of the information obtained, if the information’s values is greater than $5,000 this value elevates the offense from a misdemeanor to a felony. Any reasonable method can be used to assess the value of the information obtained and whether the threshold is satisfied. Other aggravating factors include if the offense was performed for commercial advantage or private financial gain. A third motivating factor is the offense was committed in furtherance of any criminal act.

How Strong Legal Defense Can Help

The potential outcomes of being charged with unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer can be nerve wracking. Fortunately, attorney Henry Fasoldt knows how to make sure that your case resolves in the best possible manner.