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Florida Computer Crimes Laws

Overview of Florida Computer Crime Laws

Computer crimes, also known as cyber crimes, include unlawful acts related to computers, computer systems, and computer networks. Florida describes these crimes in the Florida Computer Crimes Act, though other state laws might also apply. The individuals who participate in these offenses are often known as "hackers." Common hacking activities range from unauthorized use of another person's email account or computer to unauthorized access with an intent to cripple an entire large-scale computer network.

Florida state laws use the term "offense against computer users" to describe unauthorized access to a computer, computer system, or computer network. The term includes access made for the purpose of harm, damage, or destruction. In addition, state laws prohibit the introduction of computer viruses. To prove the offense, the prosecutor must show that the defendant willfully and knowingly participated in the computer-related activities.

To learn more about computer crimes generally, see FindLaw's Cyber Crimes and Online Scams sections.

The term "offense against intellectual property" includes unauthorized acts to alter, modify, or destroy data or information contained within a computer, computer system, or computer network. In addition, the term prohibits computer-related acts in order to disclose or steal confidential information, trade secrets, and other intellectual property. As with an offense against computer users, the prosecutor must show that the defendant participated willfully and knowingly.

Defenses to Computer Crime Charges

  • Authorization given by the owner of the computer, computer system, or computer network
  • Lack of willful and knowing participation in the offense

Penalties and Sentences

In general, Florida laws set the prosecution of an offense against computer users as a third degree felony, punishable by a term of imprisonment for up to five years, a fine in an amount up to $5,000, or both. If the offense causes over $5,000 in damage, carries out a scheme to commit fraud or theft, interrupts governmental operations, or disrupts public services, state laws increase the offense to a second degree felony. Florida state laws set a term of imprisonment for up to fifteen years, a fine in an amount up to $10,000, or both. If the offense endangers human life, the offense becomes a first degree felony, which may result in a term of imprisonment for up to thirty years, a fine in an amount up to $10,000, or both.

An offense against intellectual property similarly requires prosecution as a third degree felony, with the accompanying punishments, unless the offense qualifies as a second degree felony because the defendant intended to commit fraud or theft.

Florida Computer Crime Statute

Florida Computer Crime Act (Florida Statutes Sections 815.01-815.07)

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- please contact a Florida criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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