The term “computer crimes” is not one often heard in criminal news. Most people don’t even realize it exists. Nevertheless, computer crimes are specifically addressed by most states’ legislatures. New York computer criminal statutes are codified in Section 156 of New York Penal Code. This article, written by a New York City criminal defense lawyer Joseph Potashnik provides a short glimpse into what is considered a New York computer crime.
The most common New York computer crime is Unauthorized use of a computer. You may be guilty of unauthorized use of a computer if you knowingly use a computer
or computer service without authorization and the computer or system you use is protected by password or another security feature. Unauthorized use of a computer is a class A misdemeanor.
Another common New York computer criminal charge is Computer Trespass. Computer trespass means the person knowingly uses a computer or computer service without authorization with an intent to commit or attempt to commit any felony or, alternatively, the person knowingly gains access to computer material. Computer trespass is a class E felony.
Next in line is Computer tampering. This offense may be in several degrees depending on circumstances. You may be guilty of computer tampering in the fourth degree for using a computer or computer service (even with permission) and intentionally altering or destroying computer data or a computer program of another person without permission to do so. Computer tampering in the fourth degree is a class A misdemeanor.
If, in addition to this, the person has an intent to commit any felony or if the person has been previously convicted of any computer or theft of services crime, or the act of deleting computer material was deliberate or with the intent to cause damages for more than $1000 dollars, the person may be guilty in computer tampering in the third degree, which is a class E felony.
New York computer tampering in the second degree involves committing the crime of computer tampering in the fourth degree plus intentionally altering or destroying computer data or a computer program so as to cause damages for more than three thousand dollars. Computer tampering in the second degree is a class D felony. Finally, if an act causes more than $50,000 in damages, the person could be guilty of computer tampering in the first degree, a class C felony.
Tampering aside, another line of statutes deals with illegal copying of computer related material. Under NY Penal Law 156.30, a person may be guilty of unlawful duplication of computer related material when they illegally copy or duplicate computer or program data causing owners economic damages in the amount of more than $2,500 or copying these materials with an intent to commit felony. Unlawful duplication of computer related material is a class E felony.
You don’t have to illegally duplicate computer material to violate the statute. Simple possession of computer data may be a felony, too. For example, under Section 156.35,
a person is guilty of criminal possession of computer related material when having no right to do so, he knowingly possesses, a copy, reproduction or duplicate of any computer data or computer program which was copied, reproduced or duplicated in violation of section 156.30 with intent to benefit himself or a person other than an owner. Criminal possession of computer related material is a class E felony.
New York computer crimes statute allows for some defenses a defendant may use. Some of them include a defense that the defendant had reasonable grounds to believe that he had authorization to do all the proscribed activities.
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Joseph Potashnik is an attorney in New York City and Northern New Jersey practicing criminal defense and civil litigation. You can visit his websites at http://www.jpdefense.com (for NYC) and http://www.jpcriminaldefense.com (for NJ)