Hire a Federal Computer Fraud Lawyer Today

Computer fraud covers a wide variety of criminal offenses with a wider variety of sentences. In addition, there is a lot of grey area in the legal terminology of computer and network crimes, making it challenging if you navigate without a knowledgeable computer fraud lawyer.

Learn more below about what computer fraud is and what punishments it carries. If you’re being charged with federal computer fraud, a computer fraud lawyer from the Zoukis Consulting Group can defend you in court.

Call us today to schedule an initial consultation.

CFAA and Sentencing

The CFAA (Computer Fraud and Abuse Act) was introduced in 1986 by U.S. Congress to address the newly emerging computer age. The federal act defines seven types of criminal activity as well as conspiracy to commit or attempt.

Two notable changes to the CFAA include the impacts of the Patriot Act in 2001 and the Identity Theft Enforcement and Restitution Act in 2008. Both extended the scope of the CFAA.

The following describes the types of computer fraud, associated sections within 18 U.S.C. § 1030, and sentencing. However, you may bring a civil action for damages or injunctive relief in certain circumstances, which is separate from CFAA charges.

Obtaining National Security Information

  • Section (a)(1)
  • Sentences include a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of 20 years.

Accessing a Computer and Obtaining Information

  • Section (a)(2)
  • Minimum sentencing falls between 1-5 years with a maximum of 10 years.

Trespassing in a Government Computer 

  • Section (a)(3)
  • The minimum sentence is one year with a potential maximum of 10 years.

Accessing a Computer to Defraud & Obtain Value 

  • Section (a)(4)
  • Maximum sentences are 10 years, with a minimum of 5 years.

Intentionally Damaging by Knowing Transmission 

  • Section (a)(5)(A)
  • Minimum sentencing ranges from 1-10 years with a maximum of 10 years.

Recklessly Damaging by Intentional Access

  • Section (a)(5)(B)
  • The maximum sentence for reckless damage is 20 years, with minimum sentences between 1-5 years.

Negligently Causing Damage & Loss by Intentional Access

  • Section (a)(5)(C)
  • Negligent damage has a 1-year minimum sentence but a maximum of 10 years.

Trafficking in Passwords 

  • Section (a)(6)
  • Password trafficking carries a 1-year minimum sentence and a 10-year maximum.

Extortion Involving Computers

  • Section (a)(7)
  • The minimum sentence for extortion through computer usage is five years, while the maximum is 10 years.

Attempt and Conspiracy to Commit such an Offense 

  • Section (b)
  • The sentencing for attempted criminal activity can be tough to predict, especially when compounded with other sections. An expected minimum for an attempt is 10 years. However, there is no specified penalty for conspiracy.

Calls for Reform

Although the federal computer fraud laws have experienced minor updates over the decades, the CFAA continually draws calls for reform. 

For example, as currently written, if you violate terms of service are subject to persecution. 

With so many user agreements requiring pages of fine print, you can easily find yourself in the messy grey area included under federal computer fraud.

A prominent example of a call for reform is Aaron’s Law. 

Introduced In 2013, the authors of the amendment addressed vague terms and redundancies present in the CFAA. For example, Aaron’s Law would have eliminated redundancies that allowed individuals to be tried more than once for the same crime under separate provisions. 

Additionally, it would limit sentences to be more appropriate for minor offenses. Through the CFAA, charges and penalties can compound, resulting in more severe penalties and longer sentences.

Although Congress did not pass Aaron’s Law, it remains relevant in reform discussions. For example, both “intent” and “unauthorized access” are vaguely defined. 

Critics of the CFAA believe the lack of specificity leaves an opening for misuse. 

A computer fraud attorney understands the areas of weakness in the law’s language and develops strategies to use the language to their advantage.

One of the most crucial phrases included in the CFAA is “unauthorized access.” A Congressional committee differentiated exceeding access as opposed to intentional trespassing. For example, if you exceed authorized access within your own department or system, this would not be considered trespassing. However, if you access from a separate department you would be a trespasser. 

All transgressions mentioned in the CFAA relate to either intent or harm. A computer system must have either intentionally victimized or caused damages within the computer or network.

For example, you might not have malicious intent. Still, if your actions exposed a computer or system to damage, they are liable. You could be convicted of accidental harm or loss and face penalties under computer fraud.

Call Us for an Expert Computer Fraud Lawyer 

If you or someone you know needs help with federal computer fraud law, the Zoukis Consulting Group can help. It’s always best to choose a computer fraud lawyer who specializes in the complexities of the CFAA.

Call us today for an experienced legal team fighting in your corner for your rights in federal court.