Florida Cybercrime Laws
The amount of technology we have access to on a daily basis has increased tenfold over the last couple of decades. Anytime we need access to the internet, it’s in our pocket. This new ability to be online has led to a new category of criminal activity - cybercrime.
There are numerous ways to engage in criminal activity online, and it is all too easy to do it from behind a screen.
Types of Cybercrime
You may be surprised by the many different types of internet crimes that occur.
- Phishing scams: deceiving someone online to provide personal information, like credit card numbers.
- Computer hacking: accessing a computer’s private network in order to view personal data.
- Online sex crimes: soliciting minors, downloading child pornography, etc.
- Identity theft: using someone else’s identity to commit fraud, typically for financial gain.
- Stalking: using the internet to stalk or harass someone.
- Cyberbullying: bullying or harassing someone online, typically teenagers.
There are numerous other online offenses.
Florida Computer Crimes Act
In an attempt to protect individuals and businesses, Florida passed the “Florida Computer Crimes Act” in 1976. This piece of legislation was one of the earliest to touch on cybercrime. The act divided cybercrime into two distinct categories.
Crimes Against Intellectual Property
First, the Florida Computer Crimes Act defined offenses against intellectual property.
These are crimes that attack online data, typically on a large scale.
Examples of intellectual property crimes include:
- Puts multiple viruses onto a computer program or network to make data inaccessible
- Destroying data or computer programs
- Stealing confidential data
A trade secret is defined as information that has value because it isn’t widely known.
An example may be a company’s recipe. Because it is a secret and others can’t recreate the product on their own, the recipe itself holds value.
Customer lists may also qualify as trade secrets.
If trade secrets are stolen in a cyberattack, it can become a federal offense.
Crimes Against Computer Users
The second category of cybercrime is crimes against computer users. These offenses occur when an unauthorized user intentionally:
- Accesses someone else’s computer network
- Disrupts data transmission
- Destroys computer equipment
- Damages a computer, system, or network
- Puts a virus on a single computer
- Conducts illegal surveillance using computer audio or video
In Florida, all cybercrime is punished as a felony offense.
Against Intellectual Property
If convicted of crimes against intellectual property, you are facing second- or third-degree felony penalties.
A third-degree felony conviction would result in:
- Up to five years in prison
- Up to $5,000 in fines
The charge may be elevated to a second-degree felony if it is proven that the crime was committed as part of a scheme to defraud people or businesses.
A second-degree felony conviction increases to:
- Up to 15 years in prison
- Up to $10,000 in fines.
Against Computer Users
A standard case of a cybercrime against computer users is punished as a third-degree felony, resulting in the same penalties as listed above.
A second-degree felony charge for crimes against computer users may occur if:
- The computer damage was over $5,000
- If the offense was intended to defraud people
- Interrupts government communication
- Interrupts water, gas, or another public service
- Gains unauthorized use of a computer network belonging to public or private transit
In the most extreme cases of crimes against computer users, you may face first-degree felony charges.
First-degree felonies result in:
- Up to 30 years in prison
- Up to $10,000 in fines
Cases that warrant first-degree felony charges:
- Endanger a human life
- Disrupt a computer network or system used for medical care
Along with jail time and fines for each felony conviction, restitution payments are also a common penalty for cybercrimes.
Restitution payments are payments made by the defendant to the victim that cover things like property damage, counseling, or other expenses that resulted due to the crime.
Depending on the circumstances of the cybercrime, it could become a federal offense.
Crimes against government computers or networks are a federal offense.
Cybercrime with the intent to commit espionage is also a federal crime.
Internet Sex Crimes
Many people who engage in internet sex crimes feel like what they are doing is private. This is not the case.
Internet sex crimes face harsh penalties and can also be charged at the federal level.
Child pornography and online solicitation of a minor are two of the most common internet sex crime offenses. In these instances, law enforcement typically builds cases against these individuals for weeks or months before the arrest occurs.
A sting operation takes place when police set up the opportunity for an individual to commit a crime, then arrest them when they show intent to follow through. This is common in cases involving online solicitation of a minor.
Law enforcement may pose as an underage child and get the offender to meet up with them. Simply showing the intent to engage in inappropriate behavior with someone they believed to be a minor is enough to warrant an arrest; there does not need to be any actual sexual contact.
Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense
You do not want a felony cybercrime conviction on your record. Florida aggressively prosecutes all individuals who commit internet crimes. At Hager & Schwartz, P.A., we can help build a strong defense strategy for your case. Give us a call at (954) 840-8713 today to get started.