Understanding Federal Cyber Crime Charges
Cyber crimes typically rise to the level of a federal criminal offense because they involve the internet by their very nature. Given that the internet is considered a means of engaging in activities that affect interstate or foreign commerce, the federal government can be involved in enacting statutes against these crimes and prosecuting offenders. However, if it is the very rare case that the scope of the criminal activity involving a computer occurred only within one particular state, the offense would have to be prosecuted solely at the state level.
Types of Cyber Crime
18 USC 1030, which was amended by the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), addresses computer-related offenses involving fraud. While this statute is fairly broad in the categories of cyber activity that it covers, there are some criminal activities involving computers that slip through the cracks and are prosecuted under other fraud provisions. There are seven types of cyber crime involving computer networks that are laid out by the CFAA:
- Obtaining National Security Information
- Accessing a Computer and Obtaining Information
- Trespassing in a Government Computer
- Accessing a Computer to Defraud & Obtain Value
- Intentionally Damaging by Knowing Transmission
- Recklessly Damaging by Intentional Access
- Negligently Causing Damage & Loss by Intentional Access
- Trafficking in Passwords
- Extortion Involving Computers
Conspiracy to commit or an attempt to commit any of the above federal cyber crime offenses are also covered under the CFAA and are subject to the same criminal penalties as outlined below. If you are under investigation for, or have been charged with, an offense listed above, you need to consult with a cyber crime lawyer as soon as possible.
Potential Statute of Limitations Offenses to Federal Cyber Crime Charges
Pursuant to 18 USC 3282, the statute of limitations for prosecuting a federal cyber crime is five years from the date of the criminal activity. This is irrespective of the type of cyber crime. This means that if the federal government waits longer than five years to indict an individual who was allegedly engaged in computer fraud, the charge may not be pursued. If you find yourself in this circumstance, contact the cyber crime lawyers at Brandon Sample PLC to raise this defense on your behalf.
What are the Federal Sentencing Guidelines?
Federal sentencing guidelines recommend a prison sentence of up to 20 years for those convicted of cyber crime offenses. If the offense results in the death of another person, then a defendant convicted of the crime could be sentenced to life in prison. This is irrespective of the type of cyber crime.
The penalties for a cyber crime conviction are not as harsh for a first time offender or someone who has never been convicted of a crime involving computers. Federal sentencing guidelines recommend a prison sentence of up to 10 years for those first time offenders. Even still, consulting with a cyber crime lawyer can greatly reduce your criminal liability.
The amount of the fine imposed for those convicted of these crimes will depend on how much damage the criminal activity caused to victims as well as how much financial gain the offender was able to make from the offense. Pursuant to 18 USC 1030(g), victims of cyber crimes may bring a civil lawsuit against the offender to recover damage incurred as a result of the fraud. Any civil judgment that a defendant is required to pay to the victim would be in addition to the federal fines that could be imposed upon a conviction. By speaking with a cyber crime lawyer as soon as possible, you may be able to mitigate both the criminal and civil liability to which you are exposed.