What Are Federal Internet Crimes?
Internet crimes include a broad variety of different types of offenses completed by using the internet and fall under the broader category of cybercrimes. The nearly ubiquitous nature of the internet today has resulted in an increasing number of crimes occurring online. Some of the types of offenses conducted on computer networks or over the internet that might result in federal prosecution include the following:
- Credit card fraud
- Cyber attacks
- Accessing accounts without authorization/hacking
- Identity theft
- Solicitation of minors
- Money laundering
- Trafficking in personally identifying information of others
- Phishing schemes
- Child pornography
- Investment fraud
- Wire fraud
- Securities fraud
Many different types of online activity are prohibited under federal criminal laws. These laws apply to conduct on the internet, through emails, and through websites. Most people are likely familiar with identity theft conducted online, which has become a pervasive problem. Other common types of crimes committed over the internet include transmitting or receiving child pornography, credit card fraud, and solicitation of minors for sexual purposes.
When Will an Internet Crime be Prosecuted Federally?
While most states prohibit certain types of internet crimes, the Federal Communications Commission has jurisdiction over the internet. Because of this, internet crimes are more frequently prosecuted in federal courts. The federal government generally is more interested in pursuing people accused of committing large-scale internet crimes to defraud the government, corporations, or individuals. However, since internet transmissions occur across state lines and national borders, the federal government can prosecute anyone accused of committing internet crimes that affect the U.S.
Penalties for Federal Internet Crimes
The federal government has moved quickly to address internet and computer crimes and has established severe penalties for people convicted of online crimes. For example, sending a single photo of child pornography to an undercover federal agent can result in a mandatory minimum prison sentence for a first offense of five years in prison. The maximum federal penalties for online child pornography offenses can range as high as 35 years to life in prison for those with two or more prior allegeable convictions under U.S.C. § 2251.
Since so many different crimes can be committed over the internet, the penalties for convictions will vary broadly. However, a conviction for a federal internet crime can result in ongoing collateral consequences that can affect you for the rest of your life, including problems finding employment, the loss of a professional license, inability to pursue a federal contract, relationship problems, and more. Federal internet crimes convictions can also result in lengthy prison sentences, extremely stiff fines, restitution, probation, and other criminal penalties.
Many crimes committed over the internet also involve other federal offenses, including mail fraud or wire fraud. Violating multiple federal statutes can result in stacked charges that each carries its own respective penalties. If convicted, this means that you could face an extremely long sentence in prison.
Defenses to Internet Crimes
Federal prosecutors have the resources of the federal government available to them when they prosecute internet crimes. When large-scale internet fraud is suspected, the government might devote several years to gathering evidence against those they suspect of being involved. The breadth of these types of investigations and the voluminous quantities of documents and evidence involved make it difficult to defend against internet crimes allegations. However, the Assistant U.S. Attorney assigned to prosecute you for federal crimes will still be required to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This burden of proof must be met for every element of the charges against you, which is the strictest standard available under the law.
A skilled federal criminal defense lawyer understands that federal prosecutors have all of the resources, funding, and time afforded to them by the federal government. However, a good defense lawyer will also use his or her legal skills and knowledge to carefully analyze the evidence the government is using against you to identify issues in the government’s case and employ the most effective defense strategies available based on the facts and law. Some of the following defenses might be used to defend you against federal internet crimes charges:
- Law enforcement conducted an illegal search and seizure.
- You did not know that you were participating in an internet crime perpetrated by someone else.
- Law enforcement entrapped you.
- For child pornography charges, the person(s) depicted were not minors.
- You were incorrectly identified.
- Someone else had access to and used your online account or computer.
- The police entrapped you into committing a crime you otherwise would not have committed.
Depending on the particular offense you are alleged to have committed, other defenses might also be available.
Get Help from an Experienced Federal Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been federally indicted for committing crimes using the internet, you should retain an experienced federal criminal defense attorney immediately. Federal prosecutions can result in severe, life-changing penalties. The attorneys at the Spodek Law Group represent people facing federal charges and work to secure the best possible outcomes available in their cases. Contact us today to request a consultation and learn more about the legal options and rights that you might have.