Computers have only been widely used for the last half a century, and the internet has been popular for less than half that time. Even so, the number of ways a person can violate the law with a computer and an internet connection seems to grow by the day. These crimes are very complex, and investigating them involves intricate, detailed work on behalf of the police and prosecution. Because the D.A. only files charges after collecting ample evidence to prove their case, you should contact a skilled San Diego cybercrime lawyer as soon as you discover you are being investigated for these crimes.
Common Internet Crimes in California
Many traditional crimes are performed in a new way on computers. Examples include:
- possession of child pornography
- attempting to meet a minor for sex
- making criminal threats
- credit card fraud
- identity theft
On the other hand, some cybercrimes can only be done thanks to modern technology, such as:
Sometimes, people can commit crimes using their computers without even meaning to. For example, one man was even charged with destroying evidence for deleting his browser history, even though he didn’t commit any other crime. Because the laws around computer crimes are so complex, you should never speak to San Diego law enforcement agents about your online activities without a lawyer present.
Investigating Computer Crime Charges
Many people wrongly assume the activities they perform online are private and anonymous, especially if they use a private browser. But your identity is not entirely secret, even when using Incognito Mode. While an IP address alone isn’t enough to secure a conviction, it is enough to obtain a search warrant in many cases. Even if you use a TOR, end-to-end encryption, or another ultra-secure method to hide your identity, groups like the FBI can even track you down using malware added to darkweb sites.
If you are suspected of committing a cybercrime and the police obtain a warrant, they may seize the hard drive on your computer to find evidence against you. Do not be fooled into thinking that deleting items from your hard drive will protect you —in fact, this could result in your having charges of destroying evidence filed against you. Regardless of what actions you take, police investigators can and will uncover previously deleted material from your system. They can also subpoena the records from your internet service provider (ISP) to determine your identity. Alternatively, investigators can often retrieve messages you sent to others by seizing their devices or accessing their accounts to see what you wrote.
The police often use undercover officers or decoys to communicate online with suspects and develop an incriminating dialogue. They may even set up meetings for the suspect to meet a child and then arrest the suspect when they show up.
The police may also call you if they suspect you of a computer or internet crime. If you receive a call like this, do not speak with the investigators and immediately contact a computer crime attorney to help protect your rights.
Unfortunately, the more difficult it is to uncover evidence for a computer crime, the more likely someone will be wrongly accused of wrongdoing. It is particularly common for those who use a shared computer to face charges related to the internet activities of others.
What is the Punishment for Computer Crimes in California?
Penalties vary dramatically based on a particular offense’s type, severity, and circumstances. Misdemeanor-level crimes are punishable by up to 1 year in county jail, while felony charges can leave someone in prison. Most felony-level internet crimes carry a maximum sentence of up to three years, but some, such as cyberstalking, have lengthier penalties.
In addition to jail or prison time, these charges are typically also punishable by fines, and if they involved theft or fraud of any type, restitution to the victims will be included as part of the sentence as well.
Each charge can carry a separate period of incarceration, so always work with a top attorney if you have been accused of a computer crime in San Diego. In some cases, your lawyer may be able to negotiate a plea bargain to minimize the charges or sentencing you may face. You may also qualify for alternative sentencing, such as diversion, probation, house arrest, or community service.
Defenses to Computer Crime Charges
Whatever crime you have been accused of committing on your computer, if plea bargains or alternative sentencing are not reasonable options, San Diego internet crimes attorney Peter M. Liss can help you fight the charges by providing a reasonable doubt to your guilt. The right defense for an internet crime case will vary greatly depending on the specifics of your case, such as the charge and the investigation methods used.
These types of investigations and trials are exceptionally complex and require a lot of evidence, which means anyone fighting these charges will need an experienced and highly knowledgeable internet crimes attorney to challenge the evidence presented by the prosecution. If the police have seized evidence from you with or without a warrant, your lawyer can examine their actions and determine whether it can be suppressed based on the illegality of the search and seizure.