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Defending Against Cyber Crime Charges in California

Feb 28, 2017 by Mike McKneely in Criminal Defense

The Internet is a remarkable place for information, socializing, and business, but it is also increasingly dangerous. Individuals who are not careful can be taken advantage of or lured into risky situations. That is why California takes finding, prosecuting, and punishing cyber criminals very seriously. However, due to the anonymous nature and technical aspects of the Internet, it is possible for law enforcement – particularly state agencies with limited resources and education regarding the nuances of cyber crimes – to get things wrong and charge innocent people with crimes.

If you are accused of committing a crime through the Internet, it is vital that you work with a Fresno criminal defense attorney at Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer to learn about defending yourself against cyber crime charges in California.

Common Cyber Crimes

Many crimes can be attempted or perpetrated through the Internet, including:

  • Hacking: Section 502 of the California Penal Code makes unauthorized access, interference or tampering with a computer system, network, or data for various purposes illegal. This crime is known as hacking and an individual found guilty of hacking into a computer network without permission can be punished by up to 1 year in jail and a $5,000 fine or up to 3 years in prison and fines up to $10,000. Depending on the circumstances, judges can consider alternative sentences like community service and can also limit the offender’s access to computers.
  • Online Identify theft: Section 530.5 states that any person who intentionally obtains another person’s identifying information and uses it for an unlawful purpose, including obtaining money, credit, goods, or services, is guilty of identity theft, punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a fine or imprisonment of up to 3 years and fines.
  • Online Credit card theft: Both identity theft and credit card theft occur through online phishing scams. Phishing scams often include seemingly real and important emails that ask recipients for their personal information like bank account, credit card, and Social Security numbers. While there is no phishing-specific law, individuals can be charged under Section 484(e). This makes it is illegal to transfer, convey, or access a card without the permission of the cardholder with the intent to defraud and is considered felony grand theft in California. Additionally, anyone in possession of an access card with the intent to defraud can be found guilty of petty theft, a misdemeanor.
  • Fraud: Online criminals often target people through false promises, representations, or pretenses to obtain money, labor, real, or personal property. These online fraud crimes can be charged under Section 484, which makes it illegal to take another person’s property based on fraud and with the intent to deprive them of their money, labor, or property.
  • Unlawful contact with a minor: Adults have used the Internet to make contact with children for purposes of committing a sex crime. This leads to charges based on Section 288.3, which makes it unlawful for any person to contact or communicate with a minor to commit a felony or sex offense.
  • Child pornography: Under Section 311.11, it is illegal to knowingly possess or control in any way images of a person under the age of 18 engaging in or simulating sexual conduct.
  • Defending Against Cyber Crimes

    The best defenses for your case will depend on the charges you face and circumstances that led to the charges. However, some common defenses to cyber crimes that your attorney can utilize include:

    • Accidental access: Defendants who have been accused of accessing a computer system they should not have can argue that this was an accident and that they did not have the necessary intent to commit a crime.
    • Mistaken identity: It is possible that law enforcement traced an offense back to the wrong computer. A defendant can argue that while the IP address or location is correct, there is no evidence they were the person using the computer. This argument is stronger if there is evidence that other individuals could have been at the computer instead of the defendant.
    • Consent: It is a defense to almost all crimes that the defendant had permission to do what he or she did. However, this is not a defense to many child sex crimes, since children cannot consent to sexual contact under the law.
    • Lack of deceit or fraud: If a defendant is accused of benefiting from fraud, deceit, or tricks then the defendant can provide evidence that there was no deceitful, fraudulent, or tricky behavior.
    • Lack of intention to deprive the other individual of property or money: Defendants accused of unlawfully obtaining a person’s money, services, or property can argue that they did not have the intent to deprive the other person. This could mean they were borrowing the money or property, or that they intended to compensate the person for their labor or property.

    Contact a Fresno Criminal Defense Attorney for Help

    For people charged with these types of cyber crimes in California, now is the time to hire a defense attorney with considerable experienced in these unique cases. At Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer, we represent clients accused of committing Internet-related crimes and we are experienced in this area. We understand the complexities and how to build the best possible defense for our clients. Throughout the criminal court process, we will strive to protect your rights and prove your innocence. If necessary, we can negotiate a plea bargain or seek to minimize the consequences of conviction through alternative sentences.

    Call attorney Michael McKneely today at (559) 443-7442 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

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