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new york penal law 156 05 unauthorized use of a computer

Understanding Unauthorized Use of a Computer Charges Under NY Penal Law 156.05

In New York, illegally accessing or using someone else’s computer without authorization can lead to criminal charges under NY Penal Law 156.05. This statute makes unauthorized computer access a misdemeanor offense. Let’s take a closer look at this law, penalties, and possible defenses.

What is Unauthorized Use of a Computer in New York?

According to NY Penal Law Article 156[3], a person is guilty of unauthorized use of a computer when they:

  • Knowingly use, access, or cause to be used or accessed a computer, computer service, or computer network without authorization
  • Do not have reasonable grounds to believe they have authorization for such use or access

For example, illegally logging into someone’s email, social media, or other online accounts could lead to charges under this statute. Just accessing the computer system is enough, regardless of whether data is altered or damaged[1][2].

Penalties for Unauthorized Computer Use in NY

Unauthorized use of a computer is a Class A misdemeanor in New York[4]. Potential penalties if convicted include:

  • Up to 1 year in jail
  • Up to $1,000 in fines
  • Probation up to 3 years
  • Permanent criminal record

While a misdemeanor, a conviction can still negatively impact job, housing, and other opportunities. Penalties increase for repeat offenders[4].

Defenses to Unauthorized Computer Use Charges

Some potential defenses to charges under NY Penal Law 156.05 include[5][6]:

  • You had authorization or permission to use the computer system
  • You reasonably believed you had authorization, even if mistaken
  • Someone else accessed the computer without your knowledge or consent
  • You did not actually access the computer system
  • Misidentification – you were not the person who accessed the computer

An experienced criminal defense lawyer can evaluate the evidence and determine the strongest defense strategy for your specific case.

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What to Do If Charged with Unauthorized Computer Use

If facing accusations of unauthorized computer use in New York, it is important to[1]:

  1. Decline to answer any police questions until you have legal counsel
  2. Hire an experienced criminal defense attorney right away
  3. Follow your lawyer’s advice about responding to investigators or making statements
  4. Work closely with your lawyer to build your defense
  5. Attend all required court appearances until your case resolution
  6. Avoid any legal issues while out on bail that could impact your case

Finding the Right Lawyer for an Unauthorized Computer Use Case

When facing charges under NY Penal Law 156.05, key traits to seek in a lawyer include[1]:

  • Experience specifically defending unauthorized computer access cases
  • Familiarity with NY cybercrime and hacking laws
  • Track record of achieving charge dismissals or reductions pre-trial
  • Willingness to take your case to trial if necessary
  • Strong negotiation skills for plea bargaining
  • Responsive communication and guidance throughout the process

Don’t leave your future up to chance. An experienced criminal defense attorney can protect your rights and build the strongest case possible against NY unauthorized computer use charges.


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