Computer Crimes

Computer crimes (also called cybercrime or cyber crimes) drive an underground economy worth more than $1.5 trillion annually, according to a 2018 study presented by Dr. Michael McGuire. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has an entire division devoted to identifying and combating cybercrime. The FBI also has numerous task forces devoted to specific types of computer crimes.

You could face computer crimes charges from either state or federal law enforcement agencies. Federal court cases can be particularly unforgiving, but a conviction in any jurisdiction carries heavy penalties that weigh on you long after you’ve served your sentence. If you’ve been charged with committing computer crimes, you need an attorney who knows how to navigate both the local and the federal court systems.

Defense Attorney for Computer Crimes in Dallas, TX

The legal team at Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy has handled thousands of criminal proceedings over the years. Computer crimes are serious charges, so you need a serious attorney who’s ready to fight. We offer a free initial consultation to review the details of your case and identify what options are available to you.

Call (972) 233-5700 today or complete our online form. We’ll look at your case in detail to identify any opportunities to move for dismissal or reduced charges. When your freedom is at stake, you need a fighter who will advocate for your best interests. Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy represents clients like you in Dallas-Fort Worth and surrounding counties, including Ellis, Wise, and Rockwall County.


Overview of Computer Crimes in Dallas, TX


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What Are the Different Types of Computer Crimes?

A wide variety of crimes can be committed with a computer, usually with the aid of the Internet. Below are some of the more common violations:

  • Theft of personal information, such as credit card, social security, and bank account numbers (identity theft);
  • Theft of intellectual property and proprietary information;
  • Child pornography; or
  • Distributed denial of service attacks.

Money motivates criminals, and that holds true for cyber criminals as well. Identity theft and intellectual property theft are highly lucrative forms of Internet fraud. Criminals who gain unauthorized access to sensitive customer data files can sell that data on the so-called “dark web.” The dark web consists of a network of web sites that are not indexed by search engines and which cannot be accessed by standard browsers.

Other criminals commit computer crimes with disruptive intent. A distributed denial of service attack (DDOS) is designed to overload an Internet server with a flood of simultaneous requests. These requests are sent by a network of hacked computers coordinated to overwhelm the targeted server. While the attack is ongoing, very few visitors are able to access the website. For a major corporation, a DDOS attack can quickly translate into millions of dollars in losses.


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What Is the Texas Breach of Computer Security (BCS) Statute?

Texas Penal Code Chapter 33, titled “Computer Crimes,” defines a number of cyber crimes ranging from sexual offenses to tampering with voting machines. Section 33.02, “Breach of Computer Security,” makes it illegal for a person to access a computer, a computer network, or a computer system without authorization from the owner.

Other crimes defined under this chapter include:

  • Online solicitation of a minor;
  • Electronic access interference;
  • Electronic data tampering;
  • Unlawful decryption;
  • Tampering with direct recording electronic voting machines; and
  • Online impersonation.

Contact the attorneys at Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy today for help understanding your charges and potential consequences. We can discuss your options to present the best possible defense.


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What Is the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act?

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) is a federal anti-hacking law. This law was enacted in 1984 as an update to the pre-existing computer fraud statute. The following acts are outlawed under the CFAA:

  • Obtaining national security information;
  • Accessing a computer and obtaining information;
  • Trespassing in a government computer;
  • Accessing a computer to defraud and obtain value;
  • Intentionally damaging by knowing transmission;
  • Recklessly damaging by intentional access;
  • Negligently causing damage and loss by intentional access;
  • Trafficking in passwords;
  • Extortion involving computers; and
  • Attempt and conspiracy to commit such an offense.

A common criticism of this law is that it is vague and vulnerable to abuse. The CFAA is targeted primarily at cybercriminals, but  interpreted broadly.


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What Are the Penalties for Committing Computer Crimes in Dallas?

The BCS statute encompasses many different crimes that vary in severity from a class C misdemeanor to a first-degree felony. A person who hacks a computer system faces a range of potential punishments based on the amount of financial harm caused by their actions. A violation of this statute is charged as follows:

  • Under $100: class C misdemeanor;
  • $100 to $749: class B misdemeanor;
  • $750 to $2,499: class A misdemeanor;
  • $2,500 to $29,999: state jail felony;
  • $30,000 to $149,999: third-degree felony;
  • $150,000 to $299,999: second-degree felony; and
  • $300,000 or more: first-degree felony.

A person may also be charged with a second-degree felony under this statute if they hack government computers or networks. Penalties for violating the BCS statute range from a $500 fine to life in prison.

The penalty scheme under the CFAA is complicated. The applicable penalty depends on multiple factors: the type of crime, the result of its commission, the intent of the violator, and whether the violator has any prior convictions for the same crime. You could be fined as much as $250,000 and imprisoned for one year to life.

Computer crimes are a complex issue, and the sentencing structure is equally complex. Your best bet when charged with any type of computer crime is to speak to a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney.


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Additional Resources

Cyber crime costs global economy $445 billion a year: report | Reuters – Reuters reports the results of a 2014 study conducted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank based in Washington, D.C. Visit this link to read additional statistics from the study.

Computer Fraud and Abuse Act Reform | EFF – The Electronic Frontier Foundation is a non-profit group focused on digital rights. Visit this website to read criticisms of the CFAA, including the disproportionate penalties for violating this law and how the CFAA’s broad language opens it to abuse by “creative” authorities.

Facts + Statistics: Identity theft and cybercrime | Insurance Information Institute – The Insurance Information Institute is an insurance industry organization with a mission to improve public understanding of insurance. Visit this link to read the results of a 2018 study on identity theft. Here you can read about how much money was stolen by identity thieves between 2016 and 2017. You can also see a breakdown of how stolen information is used by criminals.


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Defense Lawyer for Computer Crimes in Dallas, TX

Computer crimes can seem relatively harmless. After all, you’re not physically harming someone or stealing tangible property. But cybercrime is just as illegal as traditional crime, and you face serious consequences if convicted. You could be liable for state or federal charges. To secure the best defense, you need an experienced lawyer on your side. Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy offers a free initial consultation.

Call (972) 233-5700 or complete our online form to schedule your free consultation. One of our experienced attorneys will review your case with you and identify a defense strategy. Contact us today to get started. We represent clients in DFW and surrounding areas, including Dallas, Collin, Denton, and Tarrant County.


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