Skip to Content

Understanding California's Computer Crime Laws

Understanding California's Computer Crime Laws

Understanding California's Computer Crime Laws

What Are Cybercrimes?

Cyber- or internet crimes cover many offenses, including both misdemeanors and felonies. However, the unifying feature is that all of these crimes occur online. In California, computer crimes are covered under California Penal Code Section 502. This section of the penal code creates provisions to protect individuals, businesses, and governmental agencies from "tampering, interference, damage, and unauthorized access to lawfully created computer data and computer systems."

Examples of internet crimes include:

  • Cyberstalking
  • Extortion
  • Fraud
  • Hacking
  • Identity theft
  • Scams

Other online activities may also be classified as computer crimes, such as intentionally introducing a computer virus or using a computer to take control of information, money, or property unlawfully. There are even offenses that we don't typically associate with the internet that may fall under the umbrella of cybercrimes. For example, drug trafficking may be charged as a cybercrime if it took place online, such as arranging to sell narcotics on the dark web.

Below we answer some frequently asked questions about cybercrimes and their penalties in California. Keep reading to learn more.

Are Internet Crimes Charged as Misdemeanors or Felonies?

The type of offense and nature of the circumstances associated with that offense will determine whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony.

What About Facing Federal Cybercrime Charges?

While internet crimes may be prosecuted at the state level, certain crimes are handled at the federal level. For example, child pornography offenses violate both federal and state laws, and if you are charged, you may be prosecuted at the federal level. Typically federal cybercrimes are investigated by the FBI. Penalties for federal cybercrimes can be very severe. If you are charged or believe you are under investigation, it is vitally important that you secure legal representation as soon as possible.

Penalties for Internet Crimes

The penalties associated with internet crimes can vary widely depending on the offense. Someone convicted of a cybercrime may face fines, jail time, or both. A conviction may also come with punitive damages or compensation to the victims of the crime. It is not uncommon for fines associated with internet crimes to be thousands of dollars, not to mention any restitution or compensation paid to victims.

A recent example of the penalties associated with cybercrime is the Sim Hijacking Conspiracy perpetrated by a six-person international hacking group known as "The Community." The final defendant in this case, Garrett Endicott, was sentenced to 10 months in prison and ordered to pay $121,549.37 in restitution.

Depending on the case at hand, there may also be alternative sentencing options, such as community service, in place of fines and jail time. You will need to work closely with your attorney to seek alternative sentencing.

Should I Get a Lawyer if I Am Under Investigation?

It's important to remember that if you have been arrested on suspicion of an internet crime, the prosecution will be fighting aggressively to secure a conviction. This is why it is so important that you have legal representation from an experienced law firm. Even if you just believe you are under investigation, the sooner you speak with an attorney, the better Contact the Law Office of Nabiel C. Ahmed online to schedule an appointment with an experienced lawyer.