Unauthorized Use of a Computer: NY Penal Law § 156.05

by ECL Writer
Criminal possession of computer related material

Unlawful computer access refers to the illegal act of entering a computer or computer network without proper authorization or permitting another individual to do so. Unauthorized computer access encompasses a variety of actions, such as gaining unauthorized access by uncovering someone else’s password and utilizing it to enter their computer, sharing a password with an individual lacking permission to use the computer, hacking into a person’s computer through the internet, or assuming another person’s identity to gain access to computer services that would typically be off-limits.

These actions constitute criminal offenses. According to New York Penal Law § 156.05, you are in violation of the crime of unauthorized computer usage if you knowingly use or enter a computer, computer service, or computer network without authorization.


Being found guilty of unauthorized use of a computer, classified as a class A misdemeanor, could result in a sentence that includes a potential imprisonment of up to one year, a probation period lasting three years, and the imposition of a fine.


To secure a conviction for unauthorized computer usage, the prosecutor must establish that you intentionally employed or accessed a computer without proper authorization. Notably, New York Penal Law § 156 expressly articulates that if you reasonably believed you had permission to utilize the computer, this constitutes a valid defense against the charge.

An additional defense strategy centers around a mistaken identity argument. If someone else illicitly used your computer to gain access to another person’s computer without your awareness or consent, you should have a strong basis to contest an unauthorized computer usage charge.

New York Penal Law § 156.05: Unauthorized Use of a Computer

Unauthorized use of a computer occurs when an individual intentionally employs, instigates the use of, or gains access to a computer, computer service, or computer network without proper authorization.

Related Offenses

  • 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 Unauthorized Use of a Computer Case

Hiring a New York lawyer for an unauthorized computer use case is paramount in protecting your legal rights. New York’s stringent cybersecurity laws demand a skilled attorney’s expertise to navigate the complex legal landscape. A seasoned attorney can assess the evidence, build a strong defense, and negotiate on your behalf. They will ensure your rights are upheld and explore potential mitigating factors. Their knowledge of local and federal cybercrime laws is invaluable, as they can help you avoid severe penalties and minimize the consequences of unauthorized computer use. Choosing the right lawyer is crucial to safeguarding your future in this technologically evolving legal arena.

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