New York Cybercrime Laws & Charges + Statute of Limitations

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Cybercrime is defined as a wide range of computer-based abuses under Article 156 of the New York Penal Code. This law enumerates five specific offenses that involve computers, including computer-based trespassing, unauthorized use of a computer, tampering, unlawful duplication of material, and the unlawful possession of computer material.

Because the issue of cybercrime is on the rise, this is becoming increasingly serious in the area of New York, and other states across America, though mistakes can still be made when using an IP address to pinpoint the actual criminal.

Laws and Penalties

Because cybercrime refers to a range of different offenses, the penalties for each offense can differ. For example, a person is guilty of unauthorized computer use when he or she knowingly uses a computer network or service without authorization. Alternatively, computer trespass is committed when an individual uses a computer without authorization, and does this with the specific intent to attempt to commit, or further commit a felony by accessing privileged computer data.

The crime of computer tampering is a little more complicated, as it is divided into four degrees. The most basic offense here is fourth-degree tampering, which happens when a person uses a computer service or network without permission to intentionally destroy or alter data or computer programs. The offense is elevated to a higher degree based on aggravating factors, such as the further commission of felonies, a specific attempt to commit further felonies, or a particularly high valuation of the material or data that is altered or destroyed.

The laws in New York also allow for the penalization of defendants for the unlawful possession or duplication of computer-related materials. For example, it is illegal for a person to reproduce or copy computer data, programs, and materials if they have no right or permission to do so. Even if a person has the right to that information, it can be illegal to duplicate it for their own benefit without the verification or permission of the owner of that information.

The various offenses associated with cybercrime in New York law are subject to various different penalties. For example, a conviction for computer tampering in the first degree – the most severely punished computer-related offense – is regarded as a class C felony, meaning that it can be subject to a term of between three and fifteen years in prison, and/or a significant fine. Computer trespass, unlawful duplication (first-class), and criminal possession of computer material are all classed as class E felonies, which can lead to a penalty of up to four years in prison, and/or a fine. The penal code of New York also classes an offense such as fourth-degree tampering or unauthorized computer use as a class A misdemeanor, which can contribute to a term of imprisonment of up to one year, and a fine of up to $1,000.

Usually, the fines for felonies that are not related to drugs will be either $5,000 or double the gain that the defendant achieved from the conduct of the crime – depending on which number is higher.

Cybercrime Defenses

As with many crimes, the penal code of New York allows for a set of defenses that can be used by individuals facing a conviction of computer or cybercrime. The most common defenses include:

  • An argument that the defendant had reasonable grounds to believe that she or he had the proper authority to use a computer or alter information on that computer. This kind of defense is applicable to individuals who believed they had the right to use information that they actually didn’t have a right to.
  • An argument that you reasonably believed that you had the right to destroy the computer program or data that was altered during a tampering case
  • An argument that you were under the belief that you had the right to reproduce, copy, or duplicate any information or computer program on a system.

Obviously, in order for any of these defenses to be successful, you must be able to prove that you had reasonable grounds to believe that you actually did have access to the computer information you used at your specific level.

Statute of Limitations

Currently, the statute of limitations for cybercrimes follows the standard statute of limitations for federal crimes that are not classed as a capital offense. According to federal statute 18 USC 3282, this means that the statute of limitations for cybercrime in New York is five years from the time when the offense was committed, or reasonably could have been discovered.

New York Cybercrime Cases