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Internet Crimes Are on the Rise in Pennsylvania

14 Jul 2017, by Dominic Padova in Criminal Defense

Written by Timothy Czekaj

While the internet can be used for staying connected with friends and providing global access to information, it is also a tool for breaking the law. A hacker might steal a user’s account information, or access credit and debit card numbers that are saved on e-commerce websites, such as Amazon. These crimes went unnoticed and unpunished for years, but recent crime-fighting updates have given police the upper hand.

If you have been charged with an internet crime, you may be worried about going to prison. Fortunately, with the help of the Central Pennsylvania criminal defense and internet crimes lawyers at Czekaj Law, LLC, you can maintain your freedom.

To find out how you can get your charges reduced or eliminated in court, call (717) 275-9770 today.


Every year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) publishes an annual report that covers all forms of internet crimes. In 2015, victims of internet crimes lost over 1 billion dollars collectively. With over 288,000 complaints coming in that year, the average cost per victim that reported a loss was approximately $8,421. Some of the most frequently reported crimes included non-payment or non-delivery, identity theft, personal data breach, extortion, credit card fraud, and phishing schemes.

Pennsylvania was statistically significant when it came to computer crimes in 2015, ranking sixth in the top ten states affected. Overall, 3.31 percent of all FBI complaints came from the Keystone State.

Understanding Computer Crimes

Technology is always evolving, making it difficult to articulate the nature of every crime that can be committed with a computer. As a result, Pennsylvania lawmakers have created several categories in which internet crimes can be placed. Overall, any act that harms or destroys a computer system or causes any type of harm to a computer user is subject to severe criminal consequences.

According to Title 18 of Pennsylvania Statutes, internet crimes include, but are not limited to:

  • Unlawful Computer Use: Accessing, altering, or destroying a computer, computer system, or computer data with the intention of interrupting service or carrying out a scheme.
  • Service Disruption: This crime involves denying users access to the internet or a computer system for the purpose of blocking certain services or sales transactions.
  • Computer Theft: Unlawfully accessing a computer or copying any private digital information. This is often done in order to deprive the rightful owner of documents or other information.
  • Unauthorized Duplication: Copying any printed or electronic information that is private or available for purchase. Penalties can be elevated if the value of the material is greater than $2,500.
  • Computer Trespassing: Causing a malfunction or altering or removing data without proper authority. This crime might also involve destring data or manipulating financial transactions.
  • Virus Distribution: Distributing software that has the potential to control or disrupt the normal functioning of a computer. Such a program might also decrease computer performance.

Universal Penalties

Most internet crimes are classified as third-degree felonies. This means that, in the state of Pennsylvania, being convicted of any computer-related offense could lead to a fine of up to $15,000 and up to seven years in state prison for each count charged. In addition, if you are found guilty, you could also be forced to pay restitution to the victim. Imagine, for example, that you leaked a virus that destroyed a person’s computer. In court, the judge may order you to pay the cost of replacing the computer along with any other monetary damages the victim can establish.

If the computer or computer system in question was used for business purposes, you may also be required to provide compensation for lost income. Cost might also be placed on any data that was destroyed; you may be told to pay for the time that was spent on content redevelopment.

Possible Defenses

If you have been wrongfully accused of an internet crime, there are several defenses that a skilled lawyer may be able to employ on your behalf. According to Section 7605 of Title 18 of Pennsylvania Statutes, it may be possible to prove that you had every right to engage in the conduct that is being mislabeled as a criminal offense. You may have been accessing a secure database as part of a contracted assignment, or perhaps you work for a government organization with security clearance.

Another defense that could help you avoid a criminal conviction is that the owner of the computer gave permission to engage in certain activities. If the manager of a hotel hires you to reconfigure a wireless network, and then accuses you of unauthorized access, it may be possible to prove that you were only doing what was asked of you.

Contact Czekaj Law, LLC Today

Because of the devastating financial impact that computer crimes can have on users and business owners, these offenses are rarely treated with leniency. The best way to avoid the consequence of this charge is to prove your innocence in court. The criminal defense lawyers at Czekaj Law can help.

If you would like to learn about your legal options, call (717) 275-9770 for a free consultation.

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