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27 Nov 23

The Penalties for Cyber Crimes in New Jersey

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Last Updated on: 6th December 2023, 10:58 pm

Oh boy, cyber crimes are no joke here in New Jersey.

Our computer crime laws can really pack a punch if you’re found guilty. I probably don’t need to tell you that hacking, identity theft, cyberbullying and other tech-related offenses are taken very seriously these days.

Let me break down the penalties you could be facing:

Fines

Fines for computer crimes in this state are no slap on the wrist. Even “minor” cyber offenses like breaching a computer network or system illegally can cost you up to $10,000. And it goes up from there.

Identity theft? That’ll be up to $15,000, thank you very much.

If things get really serious like causing over $250,000 in damages or harming someone physically, you’re looking at fines up to $150,000. Not chump change, my friends.

Jail Time

Oh you better believe cyber criminals are doing hard time in NJ. The minimum sentence is 3-5 years for hacking government computers or breaking into critical infrastructure networks like power grids or water systems. Yikes!

Run-of-the-mill computer trespassing will still land you in prison for up to 18 months. And it only goes up from there – 5 to 10 years for many data breaches and cyber theft crimes.

You can get up to 20 years for the really serious stuff like causing widespread damage or harm.

Not to mention there are “mandatory minimums” where judges don’t have leeway with sentencing. For instance, any first-degree computer crime conviction means automatically serving at least 1/3 to 1/2 of the total sentence, no parole.

Restitution

Don’t forget about restitution either. If your cyber shenanigans cause any kind of financial loss or expenses from repairs/recovery, the courts can order you to pay that money back. We’re talking hardware costs, software fixes, security upgrades, lost revenue…it adds up fast!

Probation

Many sentences also come with 1-5 years of probation. That means checking in regularly with an officer, sticking to a curfew, staying within the state, keeping your nose clean…or else it’s back behind bars!

Device Forfeiture

This one hurts. The police can seize any computers or devices involved in the crime as “contraband.” So long laptop, smartphone, external drives and everything else! Back up that data while you still can…

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Civil Lawsuits

And we can’t forget about civil lawsuits! Victims of your cybercrimes can sue you in civil court for damages completely apart from criminal charges. So you could be paying out big bucks for years to come trying settle up.

Juveniles

Think you’ll get off easy cause you’re under 18? I wouldn’t count on it. Juveniles face pretty much all the same penalties and sentences, including fines, jail time and restitution payments. Judges might cut a small break with probation instead of incarceration, but that’s still a major criminal record following you around.

Defenses

Yikes, with penalties that steep what can you even do? Luckily there are some defenses that a good cyber crime lawyer can use to fight the charges:

  • You had permission: If you had authorization to access the computer or system, that could invalidate hacking and trespassing charges. Proving you had consent is key.
  • No harm done: If there was no actual damage, loss or harm, you may beat serious charges claiming “theft” or widespread destruction. Make sure to emphasize lack of impact.
  • Mistaken identity: Perhaps it was actually another person who committed the crime while using your device or login credentials without your knowledge. Reasonable doubt about identity could win.
  • Technical glitches: Sometimes cyber issues are just mistakes or tech malfunctions not deliberate crimes. Server errors and software bugs happen! Hard to prove but potentially exonerating.
  • Constitutional rights: There may be ways search warrants or evidence collection violated your civil liberties around privacy, free speech, etc. Experienced lawyers can leverage this.

Of course these defenses depend heavily on the circumstances and quality of legal advice. But the point is not to panic or lose hope if accused. There are ways to fight!

Bottom Line

Cyber crime is not taken lightly here in New Jersey. Our laws have pretty severe penalties designed to dissuade hacking, fraud and other tech foul-play that’s unfortunately rising these days.

Fines reaching six figures plus years behind bars is standard for many offenses. And victims, companies or the state won’t hesitate to come after you in criminal AND civil court.

My advice? Don’t commit cybercrimes, duh! But if you find yourself wrongly accused, lawyer up immediately to protect your rights. An experienced attorney may help get charges reduced or dismissed.

Stay safe out there folks. The Internet can be a dangerous place in more ways than one!