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New York Computer Crimes Laws

Overview of New York Computer Crime Laws

Reflecting the state legislature's effort to address a full range of computer abuses, Article 156 of the New York Penal Code criminalizes a wide range of computer crimes. Specifically, the law enumerates five distinct offenses involving computers: unauthorized use of a computer, computer trespass, computer tampering, unlawful duplication of computer related material, and criminal possession of computer related material.

Unauthorized Use of a Computer

A person is guilty of the crime of "unauthorized use of a computer" when he or she knowingly uses, causes to be used, or accesses a computer, computer service, or computer network without authorization. A person uses or accesses a computer "without authorization" when such person knows that his or her use or access is without the owner's permission, or where such person had actual notice that he or she lacked the owner's permission.

Computer Trespass 

A person commits computer trespass when he or she commits the offense of unauthorized use of a computer (or computer service or computer network) and either  

  • does so with the specific intent to commit, attempt to commit, or further the commission of any felony; or 
  • knowingly gains access to computer material.

Computer Tampering: Four Degrees

The crime of computer tampering is divided into four degrees. Fourth-degree computer tampering - the most basic of the offenses - occurs when a person commits the offense of unauthorized use of a computer (or computer service or computer network) and "intentionally alters in any manner or destroys computer data or a computer program of another person."  

Duplication and Possession of Computer-Related Materials

New York additionally penalizes the unlawful duplication and criminal possession of computer related material. The former occurs when a person copies, reproduces or duplicates computer material, data, or a program and has no right to do so. A person commits the latter offense when having no right to do so, he or she knowingly possesses in any form any copy, reproduction or duplicate of any computer data or program that was the subject of unlawful duplication - with the intent to benefit him or herself or another.

Below you will find a brief overview of New York computer crimes laws and penalties. 

Statute
  • New York Penal Law §156 et. seq . (Offenses Involving a Computer)
Definition of "Computer"
  • "Computer" means a device or group of devices which "can automatically perform arithmetic, logical, storage or retrieval operations with or on computer data."
  • Includes peripheral equipment, such as internal and external drives, faxes, modems and printers, which are designed to store, retrieve or communicate the results of computer operations, programs or data.
Possible Defenses
  • Reasonable grounds to believe the accused person had authorization to use computer (for unauthorized use of a computer; defendant must provide written notice of intent to utilize defense)
  • Reasonable grounds to believe the accused person had authorization to alter or destroy computer data or computer program (for computer trespass in any degree; defendant must provide written notice of intent to utilize defense)
  • Reasonable grounds to believe the accused person had right to copy, reproduce or duplicate computer data or computer program (for unlawful duplication; defendant must provide written notice of intent to utilize defense)
Penalties
  • Computer tampering in the first degree: Class C felony, from one-15 years prison, a fine up to $5,000 or double the defendant's gain from commission of the crime
  • Computer trespass, first-degree unlawful duplication, and criminal possession of computer related material: Class E felony, four years prison,a fine up to $5,000 or double the defendant's gain from commission of the crime
  • Unauthorized use of a computer and fourth-degree computer tampering: Class A misdemeanor, up to one year in jail, fine up to $1,000
Related Crimes
Federal Internet Gambling Law
  • Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act
 

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

New York Computer Crime Laws Related Resources:

Get a Free Case Review 

There are a number of crimes you can be accused of involving your mobile device, tablet, or desktop computer. Regardless of the device involved, you'll want the best legal representation possible to help you fight these charges. Start the process with a free case review from a New York criminal defense attorney who specializes in white collar cyber crimes. 

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