Computer fraud is a serious federal offense that is punishable by significant jail time and hefty fines. Unfortunately, because the statutory definition of this offense is so broad, many innocent individuals fall victim to overzealous prosecution, so if you live in south Florida and are being investigated for computer fraud, it is critical to contact an experienced white collar crime attorney who can help you formulate a defense.
The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), is a federal law that prohibits a wide variety of computer-related activity, including:
- Accessing a protected computer without authorization and transmitting classified government information;
- Intentionally accessing a protected computer without authorization to obtain financial information;
- Intentionally accessing a protected computer used by a U.S. agency or department without permission;
- Accessing a protected computer without permission and with the intent to defraud a person or entity;
- Causing damage to a protected computer through the transmission of information, a code, or a specific program; and
- Affecting interstate or foreign commerce by trafficking in passwords that provide access to a protected computer used by or for the U.S. government.
To qualify as a protected computer, a device must be either:
- Exclusively used by a financial institution or the U.S. government; or
- Used in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, which can include computers located outside of the U.S.
This definition is extremely broad. In fact, a number of courts have found that as long as a computer is connected to the internet, it will satisfy the definition of a protected device. However, in order to be convicted under this statute, the prosecutor must establish that a defendant intended to commit the offense. This helps avoid prosecution of those who make careless or unintentional mistakes. Unfortunately, many innocent people are still prosecuted in federal court for this offense, often as a result of improper legal representation or illegally seized evidence.
Although the penalties for this offense vary depending on the severity of the crime, a person convicted under the CFAA could face up to 20 years in prison and fines of $250,000. Furthermore, anyone who claims to have suffered a loss as a result of a defendant’s offense, can file a lawsuit against that individual. If convicted, the defendant may then be required to pay compensatory damages. However, in order to collect damages, a person must file a claim within two years of the date of the complained act.
Call an Experienced White Collar Crime Attorney Today
Computer fraud is zealously prosecuted both inside and outside of the U.S., making it especially important for those who are being charged with this offense to seek the aid of an experienced white collar crime attorney who can attempt to have the charges reduced or even dismissed. If you are a resident of south Florida and are under investigation for computer fraud, please contact Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. Criminal Defense Attorneys, by calling 305-670-9919 and a member of our dedicated legal team will help you set up a free consultation with an experienced attorney.