In today’s electronic world, almost everything occurs in “cyber-space.” People communicate via email or social media, pay bills on their computer, and search for information using the internet. In short, in the 21st century we exist in a cyber-world. It should come as no surprise then to learn that cyber-crimes are the fastest growing category of crimes in the United States. IN fact, while many of the older generations still struggle to adapt to the new electronic age, criminals are way ahead of all of us. If you have been charged with a cyber-crime, you need to take the charges against you seriously. A good place to start is with a better understanding of what is meant by the term “cyber-crimes.” Toward that end, a Murfreesboro criminal defense lawyer explains what types of crimes are included in the term cyber-crimes and what type of penalties you might be facing if convicted of one.
How Is the Term Cyber-Crime Defined?
Because it is such a relatively new area of the law, the legal definition of the term “cyber-crimes” can vary from one jurisdiction to the next; however, in simplest terms, a cyber-crime is one that involves a computer and a network. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigations (TBI) provides an even simpler definition: “the use of technology to commit crimes.”
Cyber-Crimes in the State of Tennessee
The Tennessee Personal and Commercial Computer Act of 2003 was passed specifically to address the rise in cyber-crimes. Found in Section 39-14-601 et seq. of the Tennessee Code, it covers a wide range of technology related crimes. Specifically, the Act states, in pertinent part, as follows:
Whoever knowingly, directly or indirectly, accesses, causes to be accessed, or attempts to access any telephone system, telecommunications facility, computer software, computer program, data, computer, computer system, computer network, or any part thereof, for the purpose of:
- Obtaining money, property, or services for oneself or another by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises…
- Causing computer output to purposely be false for, but not limited to, the purpose of obtaining money, property, or services for oneself or another by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises…
- Effecting the creation or alteration of a financial instrument or of an electronic transfer of funds with the intent to disrupt, alter, misappropriate, or commit fraud…
Whoever intentionally and without authorization, directly or indirectly:
- Accesses any computer, computer system, or computer network
- Alters, damages, destroys, or attempts to damage or destroy, or causes the disruption to the proper operation of any computer, or who performs an act which is responsible for the disruption of any computer, computer system, computer network, computer software, program, or data which resides or exists internal or external to a computer, computer system, or computer network
- Introduces or is responsible for the malicious input of any computer contaminant into any computer, computer system, or computer network
- Accesses, causes to be accessed, or attempts to access any computer software, computer network, or any part thereof, for the purpose of maliciously gaining access to computer material or to tamper maliciously with computer security devices including, but not limited to, system hackers
- Makes or causes to be made an unauthorized copy, in any form, including, but not limited to, any printed or electronic form of computer data, computer programs, or computer software residing in, communicated by, or produced by a computer or computer network
A cyber-crime can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony in the State of Tennessee, depending on the specific crime and various other factors. If the crime is committed in conjunction with an act of terrorism, it can be charged as a Class A felony, the most serious felony in Tennessee.
Keep in mind that many cyber-crimes can also be charged as a federal offense because the very nature of the technology used in the commission of the crime qualifies it as a “cross-border” crime, thereby causing it to fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. federal government.
Contact a Murfreesboro Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you have been charged with a cyber-crime in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the prosecution of your case. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.