Unlawful computer access encompasses the illicit entry into a computer or computer network, or facilitating another person’s unauthorized entry. Unauthorized computer access can encompass various activities, such as deciphering someone’s password and exploiting it to gain access to their computer, sharing a password with an unauthorized individual to access a computer, hacking into someone’s computer through the internet, or assuming another person’s identity to access restricted computer services. If you gain unauthorized computer access and subsequently modify or obliterate computer data, you have committed the offense of computer tampering. The New York criminal code defines four distinct computer tampering offenses. The specific charge you will face depends largely on your prior criminal record, the extent of damage caused, and your motive for altering or destroying computer data.
Pursuant to New York Penal Law § 156.25, you will be charged with computer tampering in the third degree if you deliberately use or access a computer, computer service, or computer network without authorization, and intentionally modify or destroy computer data or a computer program belonging to another person, while also meeting one of the following conditions:
- Intending to commit a felony.
- Having a prior conviction related to computer offenses or a theft of services offense involving evading payment for computer use.
- Deliberately altering or destroying computer material.
- Deliberately altering or destroying computer data or a computer program, causing damages exceeding $1,000.
Computer tampering in the third degree constitutes a Class E felony, which entails a maximum prison sentence of four years upon conviction. Additionally, the sentencing may entail a probation period lasting up to five years and a substantial fine.
Under the computer tampering statute, two potential defenses arise. Firstly, you can argue that you reasonably believed you had authorization to modify or delete the computer data, establishing a defense against the charge. Secondly, you can assert that you were not the one responsible for altering or destroying the material. For instance, if the prosecutor’s case hinges on evidence linking the computer access to an IP address registered in your name, but someone else, without your knowledge or consent, utilized that IP address to tamper with material on a different computer, it may pose challenges for the prosecutor to prove your guilt in a court of law.
New York Penal Law § 156.25: Computer Tampering in the Third Degree
An individual is deemed to have committed computer tampering in the third degree if they have already been found guilty of computer tampering in the fourth degree and meet any of the following conditions:
- If they do so with the intent to engage in, attempt, or further the commission of any felony.
- In case they have a prior conviction for any offense outlined within this article or under subdivision eleven of § 165.15 of this chapter.
- When they deliberately modify or obliterate computer material in any way.
- If they intentionally alter or destroy computer data or a computer program in such a manner that the cumulative damages exceed one thousand dollars.
- Unauthorized use of a computer: N.Y. Pen. Law § 156.05
- Computer trespass: N.Y. Pen. Law § 156.10
- Criminal possession of computer related material: N.Y. Pen. Law § 156.35
Hiring a New York Lawyer for Computer Tampering in the Third Degree Case
Hiring a New York lawyer for a Computer Tampering in the Third Degree case is essential for navigating complex legal waters. This offense, under New York’s Penal Law, involves unauthorized access to computer systems, potentially resulting in serious consequences. A skilled attorney will assess the evidence, challenge the prosecution’s case, and explore possible defenses. They’ll provide valuable guidance during questioning and protect your rights. Their expertise in cybercrime laws and local regulations is crucial for building a strong defense and potentially reducing penalties. Engaging a knowledgeable New York lawyer is the first step in securing your best possible outcome in a computer tampering case.