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Computer Crimes

Whether in the Phoenix area, or anywhere in Arizona, per A.R.S. §13-2316, §13-2316.01 and §13-2316.02, “Computer Tampering”, “Unlawful Possession of an Access Device”, and “Unauthorized Release of Proprietary or Confidential Computer Security Information” are sometimes collectively referred to as “computer crimes.”

These statutes are very broad and criminalize a lot of conduct relating to the use of computers. Each statute is very detailed and has numerous provisions of prohibited conduct and the potential punishments. Thus, we have included a discussion in very general terms, and included only a select few of the most common provisions and their potential punishments. If charged with a computer crime in Arizona, you should seek the advice of a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney to review the specific details of your case.

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Under A.R.S. §13-2316, Computer Tampering, in very general terms, usually occurs when somebody “hacks” into a system (meaning, they entered the computer system without any authority, or exceeded what authority they did have) to knowingly or recklessly disrupt, alter, damage, delete, or destroy that particular system’s data or programs. This crime is often charged when a disgruntled employee is leaving the business and they choose to “crash” the system or corrupt data of the company. Another situation where this can be charged is when a hacker attempts to obtain confidential data from someone else’s computer, or when a person uses a computer to terrorize or threaten another person. The crime can be prosecuted in the Arizona county in which the victimized computer or network resides, the computer utilized to commit the crime resides, the documents or data were located, any authorized user was denied service or where they reside, or any county in which a critical infrastructure resource which was tampered with is located. On conviction of a violation of this section, the court shall order that any computer system or instrument of communication that was owned or used exclusively by the defendant and that was used in the commission of the offense be forfeited and sold, destroyed or otherwise properly disposed. Typically Computer Tampering crimes are either class three (3) or four (4) felonies, unless the computer, computer system, or network tampered with is a critical infrastructure resource, (i.e., a power plant or power grid) in which case it is a class two (2) felony.

Under A.R.S. §13-2316.01, Unlawful Possession of an Access Device occurs when a person knowingly possesses, sells, trafficks, controls, or publishes an Access Device without the consent of the issuer, with the intent to use or distribute that access device. It is presumed when a person possesses five (5) or more access devices without the consent of the issuer that he intended to use or distribute the devices. Unlawful possession of one hundred (100) or more access devices is a class four (4) felony. Unlawful possession of five (5) or more but fewer than one hundred access devices is a class five (5) felony. Unlawful possession of fewer than five (5) access devices is a class six (6) felony.

Under A.R.S. §13-2316.02, Unauthorized Release of Proprietary or Confidential Computer Security Information occurs by a person communicating, releasing, or publishing proprietary or confidential computer security information, security-related measures, algorithms or encryption devices relating to a particular computer, computer system or network without the authorization of its owner or operator. Typically, this is charged when computer hackers distribute information and means to other hackers regarding ways to bypass certain computers’ security systems. There are numerous groups of individuals to whom this statute does not apply, including publishers, vendors, users and researchers of warnings or information about security measures or defects in software. Unauthorized release of proprietary or confidential computer security information is a class 6 felony, unless the security information relates to a critical infrastructure resource, in which case it is a class 4 felony.

Need a Phoenix Computer Crimes Lawyer? Contact David Michael Cantor if you have been charged with Computer Crimes. Call 24/7 602-307-0808 for a Free Consultation.

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Possible Punishment for Computer Crimes

If the computer which has been tampered with is a critical infrastructure resource, then this Computer Crime can be charged as a class two (2) felony, and punishment can be probation with zero (0) days in jail up to one (1) year in jail, or prison of three (3) years to twelve and one half (12.5) years of incarceration. If the person has one (1) allegeable historical prior conviction, then the “prison only” range is four and one half (4.5) years to twenty-three and one quarter (23.25) years in prison. If the person has two (2) allegeable historical prior convictions, then the “prison only” range is ten and one half (10.5) to thirty-five (35) years of incarceration.

If the computer tampered with was used with the intent to devise or execute any scheme or artifice to defraud, or deceive or control property of services by means of a false or fraudulent pretense, representation, or promise, then this Computer Crime can be charged as a class three (3) felony. For a first offense class three (3) felony, For a first offense class three (3) felony, punishment can be probation with zero (0) days to one (1) year in jail, or prison range of two (2) to eight and three quarters (8.75) years in prison. If the person has one (1) allegeable historical prior conviction then the “prison only” range is three and one half (3.5) years to sixteen and one quarter (16.25) years of incarceration. If the person has two (2) allegeable historical prior convictions, then the “prison only” range is seven and one half (7.5) years to twenty-five (25) years of incarceration.

If the computer tampering was committed with the intent to alter, destroy, delete computer programs and data, or to deny access to that data, then this Computer Crime can be charged as a class four (4) felony. In addition, possession of 100 or more access devices is also a class four (4) felony. Lastly, the Unauthorized Release of Proprietary or Confidential Computer Security Information which relates to a critical infrastructure resource is also a class four (4) felony. For a first offense class four (4) felony, punishment can be probation with zero (0) days in jail up to one (1) year in jail, or prison of one (1) year to three and three quarters (3.75) years of incarceration. If the person has one (1) allegeable historical prior conviction, then the “prison only” range is two and one quarter (2.25) to seven and one half (7.5) years of incarceration. If the person has two (2) allegeable historical prior convictions, then the “prison only” range is six (6) to fifteen (15) years of incarceration.

If the computer was tampered with, or was recklessly used, in order to engage in a scheme or course of conduct that is directed at another person that seriously alarms, torments, threatens or terrorizes that person, then this Computer Crime can be charged as a class five (5) felony. In addition, the Unlawful Possession of five (5) or more, but fewer than 100, Access Devices is also a class five (5) felony. For a first offense class five (5) felony, first offense class five (5) felony, punishment can be probation with zero (0) days up to one (1) year in jail, or prison of six (6) months to two and one half (2.5) years in custody. If the person has one (1) historical allegeable prior felony conviction, then the “prison only” range is one (1) to three and three quarters (3.75) years of incarceration. If the person has two (2) historical allegeable prior felony convictions then the “prison only” range is three (3) years to seven and one half (7.5) years of incarceration.

Any person who tampers with a computer and knowingly obtains non-public records or information that is required by law to be kept confidential, or a person simply knowingly accesses any computer or data that is contained in a computer system without the owner’s permission, commits a class (six) 6 felony. In addition, the Unlawful Possession of fewer than five (5) Access Devices is a class six (6) felony. Also, the Unauthorized Release of Proprietary Confidential Computer Security Information that is not related to a critical infrastructure resource can also be charged as a class six (6) felony. For a first offense a class six (6) felony, punishment can be probation with zero (0) days up to one (1) year in jail, or prison of four (4) months to two (2) years of incarceration. If the person has one (1) historical allegeable prior felony conviction, then the “prison only” range is nine (9) months to two and three quarters (2.75) years in prison. If the person has two (2) historical allegeable prior felony convictions, then the “prison only” range is two and one quarter (2.25) to five and three quarters (5.75) years of incarceration.

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Possible Defenses for Computer Crimes

A key defense for these types of Computer Crimes is that the defendant was framed and/or his identity was mistaken for that of another person. These defenses are typically applicable when another person (i.e., a “hacker”) utilizes the defendant’s computer terminal (or somehow routes the tampering wirelessly through the defendant’s computer without physically being present at the defendant’s computer), without the defendant’s knowledge. In today’s world, hackers are getting very sophisticated and have found ways to reroute IP addresses in order to misdirect suspicion. Thus, there will be no trace of the illegal activity to the hackers’ computer, only to the innocent and unsuspecting defendants’ computer. In addition, co-workers will often know each other’s passwords, and then they will use a co-worker’s terminal to commit unauthorized access of data or computer tampering. This is not unlike a bank teller dipping into another bank teller’s cash drawer in order to take funds and blame it on their co-worker.

Another possible defense to a Computer Crimes charge would be the defendant’s lack of intent to do the damage described in the statute (i.e. intent to delete programs, share security secrets, etc.). For example, a “hacker” may simply be attempting to get into a database in order to alter a website for humorous purposes, and not for deceptive or identity theft purposes. Many times the prosecutors will overcharge these types of crimes, and it is necessary to interview and hire forensic computer experts to contradict the state’s evidence against the defendant.

Additionally, because our law firm fights conviction from all angles, we would assert a wide range of defenses and challenges to constitutional violations that apply in all criminal cases. The possibilities are numerous and diverse. One of those we frequently assert is a “Miranda rights violation.” In Arizona, the standard of whether any incriminating statement (i.e., a statement which tends to admit guilt) is admissible into evidence is based upon a “voluntariness” standard. If we can demonstrate that the police coerced you (i.e., intimidated or tricked you) into making a confession or inculpatory statement, or that they did not properly read you your Miranda Rights, then we can suppress those statements and any evidence gathered as a direct result of those statements. In addition, the “denial of right to Counsel” is another common defense which is often raised. This occurs when a suspect is in custody and requests to speak to their attorney, but is denied and questioning continues. Other defenses may include challenging the validity of any search warrant, or whether there were any “forensic flaws” during the investigation of your case including computer analysis/cloning hard drive procedures; forensic financial accounting reviews, fingerprints, and IP tracing. Lastly, one of the most common defense tactics is exposing sloppy or misleading police reports which include everything from misstatements, false statements, flawed photo line-ups and inaccurate crime scene reconstruction. It is important to hire a skilled Computer Crimes lawyer to defend you who has knowledge of all the possible defenses to assert in your case.

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It is important to hire an AV® rated law firm (the highest possible rating by Martindale Hubbell®). Also David Michael Cantor is a Phoenix Computer Crimes Lawyer and a Certified Criminal Law Specialist, per the Arizona Board of Legal Specialization. In addition, the Firm and all of its lawyers are listed in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers®. At the Law Offices of David Michael Cantor, P.C., the majority of our Attorneys are ex-Prosecutors, and all of our Phoenix Computer Crimes Lawyers know the system well. For a free initial consultation, call us at 602-307-0808.

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