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NY Penal Law § 156.10: Computer Trespass

July 4, 2020 Federal Criminal Attorneys

The crime of unauthorized access of a computer can entail a number of different activities, including deciphering another person’s secret password and utilizing it to access that person’s computer, sharing a password to other individuals who do not have authorization to access the computer, hacking into someone’s computer over the internet, or posing as another person in order to access computer services that would otherwise not be available to you.  These types of activities are crimes. There are a number of laws in the New York criminal code established to prosecute crimes related to the unauthorized access of a computer. The particular charge that you will face depends largely on what you do or intend to do once you have accessed the computer.  You have committed the crime of computer trespass under New York Penal Law § 156.10 if you use or access a computer, computer service, or computer network without authorization, you are aware of what you are doing, and you also

  1. Do this with the intention of committing a felony, or
  2. Are aware that you are gaining access to computer material.

Case Law Example

Mr. Louis Puesan was out on disability leave from his job as a field technician with Time Warner Cable. While he was on leave, he was no longer authorized to have access to the company’s offices or their computer system. Nonetheless, Mr. Puesan knew how to gain access to the company’s offices and, when he did, he was observed utilizing three different company computers. Other company employees later found out that someone had installed keystroke logging software on those three computers that Mr. Puesan was seen using. The purpose of this software was to allow Puesan to access confidential customer information. For these actions, Mr. Puesan was charged with computer trespass. This was the case of the People v. Puesan, 973 N.Y.S.2d 121 (N.Y. App. Div., 2013)

Offenses that are Related

Unauthorized use of a computer: New York Penal Law § 156.05

Criminal possession of computer related material: New York Penal Law § 156.35

Computer tampering in the fourth degree: New York Penal Law § 156.20

Computer tampering in the third degree: New York Penal Law § 156.25

Computer tampering in the second degree: New York Penal Law § 156.26

Possible Defenses

For the purpose of  successfully prosecuting you on a charge of criminal trespass, the prosecutor must demonstrate not only that you accessed a computer without the owner’s authorization, but that you also did so in furtherance of a felony offense, or that you actually did gain access to material on the computer in question. If you only accessed a computer but did nothing further than that, then a charge of computer trespass would not be valid.

Additionally, the prosecutor needs to prove that you were the person who unlawfully accessed the computer. Therefore, an alternative defense consists of  a mistaken identity defense. If another individual utilized your computer to unlawfully access someone else’s computer without your knowledge or permission, then you should be able to successfully evade prosecution for a charge of computer trespass or any other computer crime.

The Sentence

Being a class E misdemeanor, should you be convicted of unauthorized use of a computer, the judge may sentence you to a prison term of up to 4 years, a probation term of 5 years, and the payment of a fine.

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