Ohio Computer Fraud Laws & Charges + Statute of Limitations

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The world of technology is changing faster than most people can keep up with. Laws are also struggling to keep up with these changes because high tech devices, such as computers, can be used for committing crime and abuses. However, Ohio is trying to address the issue quite aggressively, focusing on all types of cyber crimes. The laws in Ohio recognize felony computer crimes and misdemeanor computer crimes as well.

Laws and Penalties

Computer crimes in Ohio are covered under ORC 2913.01 – Theft and fraud general definitions. They recognize firstly the misdemeanor computer crimes, which are classed as a 4th degree misdemeanor, which covers unauthorized use. Secondly, they recognize the 5th degree felony, which is unauthorized use of computer property.

For a conviction to be secured, the prosecution must demonstrate the mental intent to commit a crime. Recklessness and negligence, for instance, are not sufficient for a crime to be committed. Knowing and purposefulness, however, are. Under Ohio computer crime laws, the crime has to be knowingly done. This means that the accused have to have known that they were attempting to do something illegal. For instance, they must have known that they were using someone else’s computer, and that they were not allowed to do so.

Both the felony and misdemeanor crimes cover unauthorized computer use. It is the severity of the crime that will determine whether someone is charged with a felony or not. Additionally, it is important to understand that attempting to commit a crime is sufficient to secure a conviction, even if the attempt was not successful. If the crime was not completed, but you have the knowing mental intent, therefore, you can be convicted of the offense.

Special attention is also paid to cyber stalking. Those who are convicted of using computer technology to threaten or harass an individual will face jail time and/or fines. However, determining just what the penalty will be depends on a range of factors, including the level of crime that was committed.

In Ohio:

  • A first degree misdemeanor can lead to 180 days in jail.
  • A fourth degree felony can lead to 18 months in jail.

Important in convictions for cyber stalking, in particular, is whether the defendant was motivated by sexual desire. In this case, it is possible that someone who is convicted will also have to register as a sex offender. This is despite possibly receiving a lenient sentence for the cyber crime itself.

Computer Fraud Defenses

The burden of proof lies with the prosecution in Ohio, as it does in other states. Hence, defendants are entitled to legal representation who will present their defense against the criminal accusations. For computer fraud and other cyber crime cases, the most common defenses include:

  • Believing that they were using a computer that the were authorized to use, or believing that they were authorized to destroy, copy, or reproduce a computer program or its data.
  • Lack of intent, particularly since mental intent has to be present to secure a conviction. This is one of the most common defenses against computer fraud. A lawyer will attempt to prove that the accused did indeed engage in the actions, but that they did not intend to cause harm to another party or individual.
  • Lack of knowledge, whereby the lawyer will show that the defendants did not know that what they were doing was illegal, or that their actions were accidental and that they lack the knowledge of how to fix the problem at hand.
  • Mistaken identity is also an increasingly common defense. Usually, with computer crimes, the prosecution will use a person’s IP address as proof of the identity of the individual. The defense may argue that the IP address is not always linked to that specific individual, as multiple people may have used the computer and because clever hackers are able to use other people’s IP addresses.

Statute of Limitations

In Ohio, the statute of limitations for computer fraud is the same as any other non-capital crime. This means that it is currently five years from the day the offense actually happened. This is an important distinction, as the statute often doesn’t start to run until the date of discovery, rather than the date of the offense itself.

Ohio Computer Fraud Cases

Geoffrey Nathan, Esq.

About Geoffrey Nathan, Esq.

Geoffrey G Nathan is a top federal crimes lawyer and Chief Editor of FederalCharges.com. He is a licensed attorney in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts since 1988, admitted to practice in both Federal and State courts. If you have questions about your federal case he can help by calling 877.472.5775.