27 Nov 23

Understanding Cybercrime Charges in Long Island and Available Defenses

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Last Updated on: 6th December 2023, 11:06 pm

Understanding Cybercrime Charges in Long Island and Available Defenses

Cybercrime charges are on the rise across Long Island and can carry serious penalties if convicted. As more of our lives move online, prosecutors are getting aggressive going after hacking, identity theft, computer trespass and other tech-enabled offenses.

But these cases also present unique challenges. Cybercrime laws tend to be broad and complex, covering a wide range of activities. And digital evidence can be complicated for courts to evaluate. As a result, cybercrime charges are often vulnerable to strong legal defenses.

This article breaks down common cybercrime allegations in Long Island, potential penalties defendants face, and practical defenses attorneys can raise on their behalf.

What Activities Do Cybercrime Laws Cover?

There are a patchwork of state and federal laws that can apply to cyber offenses in New York. Some of the most frequently charged crimes include:

  • Computer Trespass: Intentionally accessing a computer, network or digital database without authorization or exceeding permitted access. This covers hacking attempts and data breaches.
  • Computer Tampering: Damaging, deleting or altering data or system functions on a computer without authorization. This includes malware attacks, denial of service efforts and ransomware campaigns.
  • Identity Theft: Using someone else’s personal information without permission to obtain credit, merchandise or services. Phishing schemes designed to steal usernames, passwords and financial account details often lead to ID theft charges.
  • Child Pornography: Possessing, accessing or distributing sexually explicit images and videos of minors. While clearly illegal and unethical, defendants in these cases often claim they came upon the material unwittingly.
  • Wire Fraud: Using electronic communications to obtain money or property under false pretenses. Common wire fraud allegations involve email compromise scams, romance frauds, fraudulent online transactions and more.

Potential Penalties Depend on Severity

The specific penalties defendants face depend on what offenses they are charged with and how much harm prosecutors claim their actions caused.

Less severe hacking or ID theft cases typically lead to misdemeanor charges at the state level. If convicted, defendants can face up to a year in jail plus fines and probation. Restitution to victims may also be ordered.

More serious cybercrime allegations often trigger felony charges under state or federal law instead. Potential prison sentences range from 1-25+ years if convicted at trial depending on the circumstances. Fines up to $250,000 per charge are also possible.

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But because digital evidence can be complex, and cybercrime laws are constantly evolving, viable defenses are often available. Common examples include:

Lack of Criminal Intent

Most cyber offenses require prosecutors to prove defendants intentionally committed illegal acts. But technical mistakes or ignorance of particular security protocols can negate this intent.

If defense lawyers can show their clients ended up on forbidden networks or servers inadvertently, judges and juries may refuse to convict. This is especially true in child pornography cases, where defendants frequently claim they stumbled onto illicit materials without meaning to.

Authorization Disputes

Many cyber laws require unauthorized access or exceeding permission to trigger criminal liability. But for networked systems, authorization terms can be vague and implicit. This gives the defense room to argue clients had tacit approval to view data or perform administrative functions.

In data breach and hacking scenarios, defendants may claim they were conducting good faith security research or believed they had permission to peek around internal systems. While risky, this can be an effective trial strategy in the right circumstances.

Insufficient Evidence

The government typically needs to prove specific actions tied to particular cybercrime statutes beyond a reasonable doubt. But key logging may be spotty, identities can be masked online, and the exact sequence of events may be unclear.

When the digital trail is inconclusive, defense counsel can challenge the sufficiency of prosecutorial evidence regarding their client’s role. This approach recently led to a judge dismissing wire fraud charges against an alleged SIM swapper due to gaps in the government’s case.

Unconstitutional Searches

If law enforcement fails to obtain proper legal process before searching devices or online accounts, defense lawyers can argue any evidence collected should be excluded. Fruit of the poisonous tree and exclusionary rule challenges can neutralize everything from incriminating browser histories to stolen credentials depending on Fourth Amendment issues.

Though not a complete defense, getting evidence tossed on constitutional grounds can sink prosecutorial cases by leaving huge evidentiary holes. It also deters future misconduct by police and investigators.

Sentencing Mitigation

Even if convicted on cybercrime charges, skilled criminal defense attorneys can advocate for leniency at sentencing. By highlighting personal circumstances, mental health struggles, addiction issues or other complications, they may convince judges to go below guidelines ranges.

Deferred adjudication programs, minimal custody terms, home confinement options and early release mechanisms are all possibilities with persuasive sentencing advocacy.

The Bottom Line

Cybercrime laws are broad, penalties are severe and digital evidence can seem daunting. But viable defenses often emerge for those facing data breach, hacking or online fraud charges in Long Island once all the details come to light.

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By challenging intent requirements, authorization terms, evidentiary gaps and constitutional issues, skilled criminal defense lawyers can undermine prosecutorial cases. And even if charges stick, they can still mitigate outcomes through impassioned sentencing advocacy.

Don’t let fear or uncertainty push you into early pleas if accused in a cyber case. Consult an experienced attorney instead to map out your options. Leveraging technical complexities and legal nuance, they may find ways to defuse allegations, exclude evidence or minimize potential consequences.

With so much at stake, trusting your fate to knowledgeable counsel is critical. They can evaluate the specifics of your matter, identify procedural weaknesses to exploit and develop a tailored defense strategy. By leaning on their expertise, you give yourself the best chance at a positive resolution.