Are you familiar with the computer crime laws of Florida?
Most people don’t have a good understanding of what constitutes a computer crime in our state. That’s why we decided to put together this post detailing the two main types of computer crimes (with examples), as well as the penalties associated with different cyber crimes.
It starts with the Florida Computer Crimes Act. This act addresses unlawful activity by individuals commonly referred to as “hackers.” Hacking activities include use of another person’s computer or email account without authorization, and with the intent to create widespread damage or take private information.
Let’s look at several definitions as noted in the Florida statutes to understand the language of cyber crimes.
Cyber Crime Words That are Important to Understand
A computer contaminant can be any form of data which is a set of instructions intended to contaminate, disrupt, destroy, change, interfere with, or record the normal operations of a computer, system, or network. It is commonly referred to as a virus.
A computer network is a connection between computer systems, devices, or equipment.
A computer system is a collection of devices that each contain computer programs and perform functions.
An electronic device can include any device that receives, stores, or transmits data, including cellular phones, tablets, and other portable devices.
Intellectual property, according to Merriam-Webster, is “property (such as an idea, invention, or process) that derives from the work of the mind or intellect.” Where computers are concerned, this includes programs.
What Constitutes a Computer Crime in Florida?
To be arrested for a computer crime, the prosecution must prove that an individual acted intentionally, knowingly, and without permission to commit a cyber crime. Two kinds of computer crime offenses are defined by Florida law. The first kind is crimes involving intellectual property.
The second kind is crimes involving computer users.
Possible intellectual property cyber crimes include the following:
- Infecting a system with a computer contaminant
- Disabling or destroying software or data
- Taking or sharing trade secrets or confidential information
The possible cyber crimes involving computer users include the following:
- Accessing another person’s computer without authorization
- Disturbing the flow of data transmission between the authorized user’s computer and another device
- Causing damage or destruction to another person’s computer or electronic equipment
- Taking another person’s computer or electronic equipment
- Infecting another person’s computer, network, or device with a computer contaminant
- Conducting audial or visual surveillance of another person’s computer
- Accessing data on another person’s computer, network, or device
Consequences Associated with Florida Cyber Crime Conviction
Since computer crimes are growing so quickly both in the private and public sectors, Florida lawmakers have approved strict laws and penalties against computer crimes. These crimes are shown to have more far-reaching impact in comparison to other types of white collar crimes, which are typically more limited in scope.
For example, an individual who embezzles funds from a single account can only acquire so much financial property. However, if an individual takes confidential information from another user’s computer, they can set up multiple lines of credit using that person’s information. This individual may have greater potential to acquire financial property than the individual in the embezzlement scheme.
That is why the penalties for cyber crimes are automatic felony charges, which translate to prison time along with significant fines.
Penalties for cyber crimes fall along the following guidelines:
- Intellectual property cyber crime, third degree felony: base sentence
- Intellectual property cyber crime, second degree felony: if the offense was intended to exercise a scheme to defraud others or acquire property
- Crime against computer user, third degree felony: base sentence
- Crime against computer user, second degree felony: if the offense occurred under any of the following conditions:
- Damage of no less than $5,000 occurred to a computer, equipment, system, or network.
- The offense was intended to exercise a scheme to defraud others or acquire property.
- The normal operations of a government entity or public service entity were disrupted.
- A private or public transit system was compromised.
- Crime against computer user, first degree felony: if human life is endangered by the cyber crime, or if the crime causes a disruption in a person’s medical treatment or care
The Florida Computer Crime Center was created to investigate computer crimes, which are often more complex than police forces are equipped to handle alone. The center assists police in cases that involve breaches of networks, cyberattacks, and exploitation of children. If the exploitation of children is involved, further charges may be added to computer crime charges.
If you are accused of committing a cyber crime in Florida, these defenses may apply in your case:
- Lack of knowledge
- Lack of intent
- Authorized use was granted
A felony charge has serious implications. It’s essential to hire a knowledgeable Florida criminal lawyer who has successfully handled cases like yours before. Call today to discuss your case details with us.
About the Author:
Attorney David W. Olson is the founder of the Law Offices of David W. Olson in West Palm Beach. He has been practicing criminal law and successfully representing clients throughout the State of Florida for over 30 years. Throughout his legal career, Mr. Olson has been honored numerous times for both his dedication and excellence in criminal law. He proudly holds the Martindale-Hubbell AV Rating, as well as being recognized as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013), in the Nation’s Top One Percent of attorneys (2015), and as a 10 Best Member of the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys (2015). He has even received commendations from members of congress and other public officials for the fantastic work that he’s done. Mr. Olson graduated from the University of Florida’s Fredric G. Levin College of Law in 1981 and has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1983.