Computer hacking is a crime in Dallas when an individual accesses a protected computer or network without proper authorization and with the intent to commit fraud or cause harm.
“Access” means to approach, instruct, communicate with, store data in, retrieve or intercept data from, alter data or computer software in, or otherwise make use of a computer, computer network, computer program, or computer system. There are several different ways that a person could gain access to a computer or network. Common methods include phishing emails, malware, or logging into the computer in person.
“Protective computer or network” is defined very broadly under the law and includes any device that is connected to the internet. Desktop computers, laptops, tablets, cellphones, websites, and gaming systems are all covered under the law.
Most computer hacking convictions involve crimes where the individual intentionally breaks into damage a system, steal passwords or data, introduce malware, or attempt identity theft. In Dallas, most computer hacking prosecutions fall into the below categories:
- Accessing a protected network or computer without consent;
- Unlawfully attempting to obtain national security information;
- Causing intentional damage to the information on a computer or the computer itself;
- Using computers or similar devices to commit extortion;
- Trafficking computer passwords with the intent to defraud; and
- Accessing a network or computer for the purpose of cyber fraud.
What are the Computer Hacking Laws in Dallas?
In Dallas, computer hacking charges can be brought under federal or state law. There are two primary laws used to prosecute computer hacking in Texas.
- Federal Charges. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) is the federal statute most frequently used to prosecute computer hacking.
- State Charges. The Breach of Computer Security act (BCS) is the Texas state statute used to prosecute computer hacking.
Depending on the facts of your case, there are various other criminal charges that you could face, including but not limited to identity theft, wire fraud, interfering with communications, and access device fraud.
What are the Penalties for Computer Hacking in Dallas?
Computer hacking carries significant penalties in Dallas, Texas. The penalties for computer hacking vary on the specific nature of the offense you are accused of. Most computer hacking convictions will result in significant prison time, hefty fines, and a permanent record.
Under Texas state law, computer hacking ranges from a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a maximum fine of $2,000, to a felony. The offense is increased to a felony if:
- The victim is the government or a critical infrastructure facility;
- The defendant is a repeated offender and has been convicted of computer hacking twice in the past; or
- The amount of money involved is over $2,500.
Under federal law, computer hacking is charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances of the case, the motivation behind the misconduct, and the level of harm caused. In most cases, if you hacked a computer for financial gain, to commit another crime, or obtain information valued at over $5,000, you will face felony charges.
Having a felony conviction on your record is life-changing. It will affect employment opportunities, professional licenses, education opportunities, your right to vote, your ability to own a firearm, and your standing in the community.
Defense of Computer Hacking in Dallas
Computer hacking is a serious crime that is aggressively prosecuted and heavily penalized. It is critical to reaching out to a qualified Dallas criminal defense attorney as soon as you are aware that you are under investigation. Getting an attorney involved early can make a significant difference in your case. They may even be able to get the charges dropped if there are issues with the search warrant or law enforcement investigation.
There are various defenses that a criminal defense could argue depending on the unique facts of your case. Common defenses in computer hacking cases include:
- You unintentionally or mistakenly accessed the computer;
- You had consent or a reasonable belief that you had the authorization to access the computer and obtain information; and
- You are the victim of a false allegation.
Your Dallas Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or a loved one are facing computer hacking charges, you should reach out to an experienced Dallas criminal defense attorney. Philip D. Ray is an experienced Dallas attorney who will make sure that your rights are protected. Call Philip D. Ray today to schedule a consultation at (214) 845-7987.