With more and more people having access to the internet and email, it is
easy to send communications back and forth to one another. Often times,
individuals use electronic media to ask a friend for help or request information
for an upcoming event. However, if a person requests confidential information
to unlawfully log into a computer or program, they could be committing
an offense referred to as spear phishing.
For example, say Troy, a university student, creates a fake email address
that appears to be linked to the dean of the school. He uses that email
to send faculty members a request for their user name and password for
a grading program, saying the IT department is going to be making updates
to the system. Believing the email is legitimate, the professors send
the information. Troy then uses the logins to go into the system and change
his grades. In doing that, he could be charged with a criminal offense.
Laws Prohibiting Accessing a Computer System or Network
Under California Penal Code 502(c) PC, if a person knowingly accesses a
computer system without consent, they could be charged with either a misdemeanor
or felony depending on the specific actions they took.
In the example above, Troy could be accused of altering or deleting data
without permission and with the intent to defraud or deceive. This offense
is a wobbler. If Troy is convicted of a misdemeanor, he could face up
to 1 year in jail and up to $5,000 in fines. However, if he is found guilty
of a felony, he could be penalized by 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in
prison and be fined up to $10,000.
Speak with Our Attorneys During a Free Consultation with Appel & Morse
California law regarding access to computer systems or networks is diverse,
and often, people are charged with offenses when they had no criminal
intent. Our attorneys fight hard to prevent those wrongfully accused of
internet crimes from facing a conviction. When you work with us, we will take the time
to understand your circumstances and develop an effective legal strategy
for your case.
To schedule your free consultation, call us at (805) 467-6060 or
contact us online.