In our modern age, computers are taking over more and more parts of our life and how we engage with society at-large. So it’s not surprising that criminals are increasingly using computers to commit crime.Some of these acts have been around for a while – people today are just using computers to accomplish them. For example, using chat rooms to lure underage victims. However, computers have also created an entire new class of crimes, collectively defined as cyber crimes.The state of Florida takes cyber crime very seriously, with most offenses prosecuted at the felony level.
Florida Computer Crimes Act
Computer crimes encompass a broad variety of actions, ranging from illegal access of another’s email account and identity theft to online scams and even targeted attacks designed to disable large scale computer networks. The common element in all of these crimes is illegally accessing, destroying, or otherwise adulterating a computer or network knowingly, willingly, and without authorization.The Florida Computer Crimes Act divides computer crimes into two primary categories based upon the intent of the crime. These include offenses against intellectual property and offenses against computer users. Offenses Against Intellectual PropertyOffenses against intellectual property include rendering data or programs inaccessible to others, destroying data or programs other than one’s own, or stealing or disclosing proprietary or confidential information or programs. Offenses Against Computer UsersOffenses against computer users are broad-ranging, but include one or more of the following elements:
- Unauthorized access to a computer, network, or electronic device.
- Destruction, disruption or damage to computers, networks, electronic devices or supplies intended to be used in a computer.
- Disruption of data transmission from a computer, network, or electronic device.
- Introduction of malware or viruses into a computer, network or electronic device.
- Engagement in audio or video surveillance by accessing an inherent feature of a computer, network, system, or electronic device.
Cyber Crime Charge Defenses
In order to successfully convict a defendant of a cyber crime, the prosecution must prove that this individual knowingly, willingly, and without authorization accessed, adulterated, or destroyed the devices or networks in question.Common defenses for cyber crimes therefore focus on either the knowledge and intent of the defendant, or on the evidence linking the defendant to the crime.If you are facing cyber crime charges, a Florida criminal defense attorney who has successfully handled these types of cases before can help you determine which defenses are most relevant to your case. Authorization GrantedIf the defendant was authorized to access, destroy or disrupt the computer, network, or electronic devices, his or her actions do not qualify as a cyber crime. Further, if the defendant or another reasonable person would believe in good faith that these actions were authorized, an authorization defense may be appropriate.For example, the defendant could be a contractor who accessed the network in a capacity that he or she thought was authorized, when in fact those actions were not authorized by the owner or administrator of the network. Lack of KnowledgeIn order to successfully convict a defendant of cyber crime, the prosecution must prove that the defendant knowingly committed the offense. In some cases, the defendant may genuinely be unaware that the alleged crime took place.For example, if the defendant’s computer was infected with a virus, he or she may unknowingly introduce the virus to another computer or network. Lack of EvidenceDue to the typically anonymous nature of cyber crime, it can often be difficult to prove that an specific individual committed the crime in question. If the prosecution does not present sufficient and convincing evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the crime, you should not be convicted.
For example, if a virus was introduced to a network using the defendant’s IP address, this alone is not sufficient evidence, as cyber criminals often use others’ IP addresses to commit crimes.Which defense strategy is most likely to lead to a positive outcome for you will depend on the specifics of your situation. This is where the experience and knowledge of a good Florida cyber crime lawyer come in. Learn how we can help by getting in touch with our office today.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.