Computer Tampering In The First Degree: NY Penal Law § 156.27

by ECL Writer
Criminal possession of computer related material

Engaging in unauthorized computer access and subsequently modifying or obliterating computer data or software constitutes the offense of computer tampering. Unauthorized computer access encompasses various activities, including employing keylogging software to ascertain a password or improperly using legitimate access to manipulate computer programs or data. In the New York criminal code, there are four distinct computer tampering offenses, with the most severe being computer tampering in the first degree.

According to New York Penal Law § 156.27, one commits computer tampering in the first degree when they intentionally access a computer, computer service, or computer network without authorization and intentionally alter or destroy computer data or software belonging to another person, resulting in damages exceeding $50,000.


Computer tampering in the first degree is categorized as a class C felony, carrying a maximum prison sentence of 15 years upon conviction. Additionally, a sentence for this offense may entail a probation period lasting up to 5 years, coupled with a significant fine.


As per the computer tampering statute, a valid defense against this charge involves demonstrating that you reasonably believed you had authorization to modify or erase the computer data, even if this belief later proves to be incorrect. In this context, the key requirement for this defense is the reasonableness of your belief.

Another defense pertains to disassociating yourself from the act of altering or destroying the material in question. For instance, if the prosecution’s case relies on evidence indicating that a person accessed a computer or computer network from a device owned by you, but someone else utilized that device without your knowledge or consent to tamper with material on another computer, establishing your innocence might be challenging for the prosecutor to establish in court.

New York Penal Law § 156.27: Computer Tampering in the First Degree

An individual is deemed to have committed computer tampering in the first degree if, having previously committed computer tampering in the fourth degree, they intentionally modify or destroy computer data or a computer program in a manner that results in total damages surpassing fifty thousand dollars.

Related Offenses

Hiring a New York Lawyer for Computer Tampering in the First Degree Case

Hiring a New York lawyer for a Computer Tampering in the First Degree case is essential for navigating the complexities of the legal system. This serious offense involves unlawfully accessing computer systems with the intent to commit a crime, and the consequences can be severe. An experienced New York attorney specializing in cybercrime defense will provide vital expertise in understanding the intricacies of the state’s laws, building a strong defense strategy, and safeguarding your rights. They’ll investigate the evidence, challenge the prosecution’s case, and strive for the best possible outcome, whether through negotiation, reduced charges, or a compelling courtroom defense. Don’t face such a critical case alone; hiring the right lawyer can make all the difference.

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