With more and more of our lives being lived and managed online, cyber crime has exploded and practically become a cottage industry. While some actions like phishing and hacking seem clearly illegal, others fall into a gray area that can leave web users confused.
If you’re not sure what constitutes cyber crime in Florida, continue reading to get an understanding of what activities the law covers and what you should do if you’re charged with a crime.
What Is a Cyber Crime in Florida?
Cyber crimes, or computer crimes as they are referenced in the Florida codes, involve unlawful acts related to computers, digital technology, and web networks. If someone breaks the law online or using computer technology, the crime is considered “cyber.”
The Florida Computer Crimes Act attempts to further contextualize these crimes by dividing offenses into two key categories: crimes against intellectual property and crimes against computer users.
Crimes Against Intellectual Property
In Florida, the first type of cyber crime is committed against intellectual property.
Intellectual property is the information or documentation of someone’s work or person. For example, if someone has confidential documents on their computer and you steal them, you are committing theft against their intellectual property.
Three types of crimes fall under this particular category of cyber crimes:
- If you contaminate someone’s data, that is a crime against their intellectual property. Contamination means they cannot use or access their data.
- If you destroy data or a person’s computer programs and documents, that is considered cyber crime. This usually involves hacking someone’s computer and rendering their computer’s technology useless.
- If you take information that is confidential or secret, that is a crime against intellectual property.
Crimes Against Computer Users
When it comes to computer users, there are many more actions that can be considered cyber crimes.
If you access someone’s computer without permission, and especially by hacking passwords and firewalls, this is a cyber crime.
Similarly, denying someone’s ability to transmit data or deny their computer its normal uses is illegal under the Florida Computer Crimes Act (FCCA).
Taking someone’s computer and damaging it can also lead to cyber crime charges, as can introducing a virus into someone’s computer, smartphone, or internet network.
Lastly, it is also illegal to engage in any sort of surveillance on someone’s computer without their permission. For example, taking control over someone’s webcam or remotely rifling through their internet history or emails are considered crimes under the FCCA.
Punishments for Cyber Crimes in Florida
With more of our lives happening online and more public services being managed through computers, cyber crimes are taken seriously by the Florida legal system.
Offenses of intellectual property-related cyber crimes are generally charged as a third-degree felony unless the alleged act is committed as a means to defraud someone or obtain their property. Then the charge may be elevated to a second-degree felony. Third-degree felonies are punishable by up to 5 years in prison, 5 years of probation, and up to a $5,000 fine.
Charges of a cyber crime against a computer user also begin at the third-degree felony level. If the computer damage is estimated to be over $5000, then the crime is elevated to a second-degree felony. Other aspects can also function as aggravating factors, increasing the severity of the charges. To learn more about these, contact Mike G Law.
If the alleged cyber crime is committed against public utilities like gas and water or a governmental building or network, then second-degree felony charges are the minimum.
Lastly, if the transmission of data in public or private transit systems is interrupted because of a cyber offense, the defendant will be charged with a second-degree felony at the minimum.
Second-degree felonies are punishable by up to 15 years in prison, 15 years of probation, and up to a $10,000 fine.
For cases in which an alleged offender endangers human life or hacks a medical care or treatment facility, cyber crime is considered a first-degree felony. First-degree felonies are punishable by up to 30 years in prison, 30 years of probation, and up to a $10,000 fine.
Defenses Against Computer Cyber Crimes in Florida
Cyber crime charges in Florida are very serious. The best way to protect yourself is to hire a skilled Tampa defense attorney.
There are two primary defenses in cyber crime cases.
The first involves authorization. If someone gives you the authorization to be the owner of a computer program or network, then you can argue that you didn’t participate in illegal activity. The rights to a computer and its access can be hard to prove, so documents and communication are key. Even verbal commitments to access are important, and it’s crucial to present those in court as a proper defense.
The lack of knowing participation in the crime may also work as a defense against cyber crime charges. If you were doing work for a friend or boss, and it ended up leading to illegal cyber crime activity, you can argue you didn’t know that’s what they were asking you to do. As you can imagine, this is hard to argue in court, especially since ignorance is rarely allowed as a defense. The key to this defense is testimony about the meaning of your participation in the act and what you assumed you would accomplish by helping them. To adequately use this defense, a defendant may need to turn in friends or bosses and testify against them.
The particulars of your case and the charges against you will be a deciding factor in determining how to present a unified defense. To better understand possible cyber crime defenses, call Mike G.
Charged with a Computer Crime? Call Mike G
If you’ve been charged with a cyber crime or if you’re being investigated for one, contact Mike G Law immediately. Do not speak to law enforcement—ask to call your lawyer.
Cyber crimes charges can lead to severe punishments if you’re convicted. Protect your future and fight for your rights with Mike G. As a former prosecutor, he knows what it takes to defend his clients and get them the best possible outcome. Schedule a consultation today.