Computers are in almost every home and place of business these days. Many people spend time every day using computers, and computer crimes are something the law has been catching up with.
As computers and other technologies evolve, it has become easier to commit crimes using computers. As such, Pennsylvania has several computer crimes listed in its statutes. These crimes are often charged as severe felonies. A few examples include using computers to commit theft, spread viruses, and download or upload child pornography. Computer crimes related to child pornography are especially serious and may lead to harsh felony charges and a long time in prison. Computers might also be involved in crimes that are not technically considered computer crimes or cybercrimes. Even in non-computer-related cases, digital evidence may play a significant role.
If you have been charged with a computer crime or a computer is involved in an alleged crime, contact our Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers for a free case evaluation now. Call The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171.
Computer Hacking Offenses in Pennsylvania
There are multiple computer crimes found under the Pennsylvania statutes. Some of these crimes are extremely serious, while others are less so. In any case, our Montgomery criminal defense attorneys can help determine why you are being charged and how to defend yourself.
Unlawful Use of a Computer
The crime of unlawful use of a computer can be found under 18 Pa.C.S. § 7611 and is a rather broad offense that encompasses various possible computer crimes. Generally, the statute explains that using a computer to access information or a system you do not have authorization to access may be a criminal offense. For example, using a computer to access private records you do not have permission to access may be a crime under this statute. Many computer hacking offenses likely fall under this law and may be charged as a third-degree felony.
Disruption of Service
Computers rely on software both online and offline to run certain programs. For example, computer security software is always running on a computer and prevents hackers or viruses from infiltrating the computer’s data. If a person were to use another computer to disrupt the service or software on another computer, they can be criminally charged with disruption of service.
For example, suppose a person wanted to hack into their employer’s payroll system protected by computer security software. If that person disrupted the security software to allow them to hack into the payroll system, that would be a computer crime. This is also a felony of third-degree.
People can commit theft using a computer, but it is not ordinary theft charged under more typical laws. Instead, a person can be charged under 18 Pa.C.S. § 7613 with computer theft if they use a computer to steal private files or other information from another computer system.
Continuing with the payroll hacking example from above, suppose that the defendant hacked into their employer’s payroll system to steal private files about their coworkers’ pay rates. Not only could this defendant be charged with hacking offenses, but they can be charged with computer theft for stealing the files from payroll and charged with a third-degree felony.
Not only is stealing files and data from other computer systems a criminal offense but so is making copies. If someone takes the stolen payroll files from the above example and makes copies, they can be charged with unlawful duplication under 18 Pa.C.S. § 7614. Someone charged with this computer crime may face third-degree felony charges. These charges may be upgraded to second-degree felonies if the duplicated material is valued at more than $2,500.
Computer trespass is another general computer crime that encompasses various cyber-offenses. A persona may be charged with computer trespass if they use a computer to do any of the following:
- Remove data from another computer system or program they are not permitted to access,
- Cause a computer to malfunction,
- Alter or delete data from a computer when they are not authorized to do so,
- Tamper with the creation or alteration of financial information or the transfer of funds, or
- Cause physical injury to someone else’s property.
A person charged under this statute faces third-degree felony charges.
Distribution of a Computer Virus
A computer virus is like a computer program designed specifically to harm a computer and cause it to malfunction. While some viruses can be eliminated and the computer repaired, this is not so in every case. Other viruses might not cause a computer to malfunction but might steal personal data. A person charged with computer virus distribution may face third-degree felony charges.
Computer Crimes Related to Child Pornography in Pennsylvania
The internet is an incredibly vast digital landscape where almost any kind of information can be found. Unfortunately, the internet has a darker side where people often upload and download sinister materials like child pornography. Even though digital child pornography has no physical presence, a person can still be criminally charged for accessing it, uploading it, or producing it.
If you are charged with a first offense for possessing child pornography, you may face a third-degree felony. Subsequent offenders may be charged with second-degree felonies. If you are alleged to have produced child pornography and used a computer to disseminate it on the internet, you may instead be charged with a second or first-degree felony, depending on the circumstances. In such cases, you should call a lawyer immediately. You face lengthy prison time and registration as a sex offender if convicted. Our Bucks County criminal defense lawyer can help you plan your next steps.
Computer Crimes and Digital Evidence in Pennsylvania
Our daily lives have become so entangled with digital technology that many crimes may be committed or aided by using a computer. Even if a crime is not explicitly defined as a computer crime or cybercrime, there may be digital evidence that can be used against you.
When seizing digital evidence, the police will attempt to take your computer, tablet, phone, or any device they suspect was involved with the alleged crime. Our Northeast Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers can help you protect yourself by challenging any evidence obtained according to an unlawful seizure of a computer. Going through the files on a computer constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment, and the police need a search warrant for the search to be considered lawful.
Call Our Pennsylvania Computer Crimes Defense Attorneys
Computer crimes are charged so harshly because they are not only criminal offenses but may be considered massive invasions of privacy and security. Our Delaware County criminal defense lawyers can help you defend yourself against allegations of computer crimes. Call The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171 for a free case review.