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New York Penal Law 156.05: Unauthorized use of a computer

By Spodek Law Group | May 3, 2017
(Last Updated On: July 26, 2023)

Last Updated on: 26th July 2023, 08:56 pm

The unlawful use of a computer in the State of New York is governed by New York Penal Law 156.05 which states that a person can be found “guilty 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.” The crime is a class A misdemeanor. It’s punishable by 364 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 or three years of probation. A number of activities such as giving out a password or hacking are contemplated by the statute. Other more serious crimes related to the unauthorized use of a computer include identity theft.

An example of the unauthorized use of a computer
Joe had signed out of a social media account on a social network, but his girlfriend got his password to the website when looking over his shoulder. He had previously refused to give her his password to that account. The girlfriend took Joe’s laptop home with her with Joe’s permission. She went to the social media website and opened Joe’s account using the secret password that she didn’t have permission to use. She then accessed his otherwise private messages without his permission, and she responded derogatorily to several of them. On those facts, she would likely be found guilty of unauthorized use of a computer.

Without authorization
As per New York penal code section 156.00(8), the term “without authorization” involves using or accessing a computer or computer network or service “without the permission of the owner or lessor or someone licensed or privileged by the owner or lessor where such person knew that his or her use or access was without permission after actual notice to such person that such use or access was without permission.” It also involves “access of a computer service by a person without permission where such person knew that such access was without permission or after actual notice to such person, that such access was without permission.” If unauthorized use is shown, the prosecution may use that as presumptive evidence against the defendant. Like other legal presumptions, that presumption is rebuttable.

Defenses to the unauthorized use of a computer
Section 156.50 of the New York Penal Code specifies a defense to the crime of unauthorized use of a computer. The defense arises when the person charged with the offense believed that there were “reasonable grounds to believe that he had authorization to use the computer.” A person might also successfully defend against this charge if another person used their computer without their knowledge or consent to access the computer of a third person.

Regardless of the fact that the unauthorized use of a computer is a misdemeanor, it still involves a conviction for an act involving dishonesty or deceit that might stay with your name for life. That conviction can impact potential employment, educational opportunities or even housing. Sentencing alternatives might be available that can help you keep your good name and reputation. Our law firm has extensive experience in defending clients who have been charged with computer crimes.

If you’ve been arrested for the offense of unauthorized use of a computer, don’t give the police a statement or confession. Those would only be used against you in the future. Contact us first. You can call us 24 hours a day at 888-977-6335 for a free consultation and case evaluation.

New York Penal Law 156.10: Computer trespass

Given New York’s position as one of the world’s great financial centers, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that the State of New York also has some of the most severe laws “on the books” making most forms of unauthorized use of a computer a criminal offense.

As defined within New York’s Penal Law, a defendant is guilty of computer trespass if he or she gains unauthorized access to a computer, a workstation, a computer network, or a computer service and there was a malicious intent or purpose as the motivation behind that unauthorized access, such as:

To alter the contents of a file or a database for personal gain, or
With the intent to commit, an attempt to commit, or in support of any crime that is itself a felony, or
To deliberately gain access to electronic data that you have no valid, legal, reason to access or to view.

Given the definition of computer trespass, it should be obvious that there are very few computer crimes that could not give rise to an additional charge of computer trespass. Computer crimes that, by their definition, could be used in support of a charge of computer trespass include:

Industrial espionage
Copyright infringement
Software piracy

You should also be aware of the fact that even if you are acquitted on a more serious computer crime charge, the State of New York could file a computer trespass charge against you, even though the basis for both charges is essentially the same.
Computer trespass is a felony in the State of New York!

The penalties that can be imposed if you are convicted on a charge of computer trespass are those of a Class E felony:

Up to 4 years in prison, and/or
A fine of up to $5,000 or double the amount gained during the act of computer trespass.

If you are convicted of computer trespass as well as another computer crime that is also a felony, the judge that hands down your sentence can order that all prison terms are to be served consecutively (one after another) rather than concurrently (at the same time). Such a decision could easily add several years of additional prison time to an already harsh sentence.

Defenses against a charge of computer trespass

Since proving a charge of computer trespass demands that the prosecution demonstrate both unauthorized access to a computer or a network and a malicious motivation on the part of the accused, a successful defense against such charges usually involves at least one of the following issues:

The prosecution cannot prove malicious intent.
A defendant had no reason to suspect that he or she was using a computer or a network without the owner’s consent.
Someone was using a defendant’s username and password to hide their own identity.
The defendant had a legitimate reason to access the computer and/or network in question, such as security testing or program debugging.

Computer and computer-assisted crime are relatively new branches of criminal law. As with any defense on a criminal charge, the first step toward a successful defense of a computer crime charge is to obtain the services of a NYC criminal defense lawyer who understands the laws relative to computer crime at both the federal and state levels. Only a lawyer who understands both computer science and criminal law will be in a position to provide an effective defense to someone charged with computer trespass or any other computer crime charge.

New York Penal Law 156.27: Computer tampering in the first degree

Computers and other forms of technology have certainly had an impact on modern society. Much of this has been positive, but it has also opened up a wide array of legal issues as a result. If you have been charged with the crime of computer tampering in the first degree in New York, this means that law enforcement officials have reason to believe that you have accessed a computer without proper authorization. You then would have used such access to alter of destroy either computer data or a computer program. If you have been charged with such a crime, it is important to contact NYC criminal attorney right away.

Computer Tampering in the First Degree Further Defined

There are different ways that an individual can access a computer or network without authorization. This might take place via the use of a program that logs keystrokes in an effort to determine a password that is necessary to access the system. It can also occur when an individual gains legitimate access to the system, but then uses that access to do something with the information obtained that is not authorized. There are actually four different categories of this crime under New York law, but computer tampering in the first degree is deemed to be the most serious. For this charge to be handed down, you would need to use or gain access to a computer, service, or network without authorization. You would also need to intentionally alter or destroy the data to a damage valued in excess of $50,000.

An Example of Computer Tampering in the First Degree

There are many different ways that computer tampering can occur, so it is helpful to provide an example in order to understand this topic better. Imagine that an individual were to hack into the computer network of a major investment brokerage company and subsequently set out to alter the messages sent by clients that related to the buying and selling of certain securities. As a result, many types of transactions were interrupted and the brokerage house lost millions of dollars as a result. This is far over the $50,000 threshold, so the individual is likely to be charged with computer tampering in the first degree under New York law.

Possible Defenses Against Computer Tampering in the First Degree

Just because you are charged with this serious crime does not mean you to have face the accusation lying down. The first line of defense may very well be to demonstrate that you had good reason to believe that you actually had proper authorization to either alter or destroy the computer data in question. This defense often works even if it turns out that you were wrong. All that is required for this defense is to show that you have a proper reason to believe that you had authorization, even if you did not.

Your NYC criminal attorney may be able to show that it was not actually you who altered or destroyed the computer data in question. This is another common defense to the charge of computer tampering in the first degree. If you can show that another individual access that computer without your permission with the aim of altering or destroying data, then the prosecution will have a hard time proving that you are the guilty party.

As a class C felony, a conviction of this crime will carry a maximum prison sentence of 15 years. This is serious, so make sure that you have the best criminal lawyer in the region representing your legal rights.

New York Penal Law 156.26: Computer tampering in the second degree

Computer tampering in the second degree is classified as a felony offense in the state of New York. This means that you must take the charge seriously and mount a vigorous defense in order to preserve your good name and reputation. There are a variety of reasons that such a charge can be issued against an individual, but it largely involves the accusation that a person has authorized a computer or serve without access and set out to do some type of harm as a result of that access. In any event, you will want to retain the services of an experienced NYC criminal lawyer in order to preserve your legal rights throughout the ordeal.

Computer Tampering in the Second Degree Explained

When law enforcement officials believe you accessed or destroy computer data as a result of gaining access in an unauthorized manner, a charge of computer tampering in the second degree may result. Unauthorized access to computer or server can be gained in a variety of ways, and this is further defined by New York penal code 156.26. Some of the methods include determining the password of another person and using to access that person’s computer with his or her permission, giving a password to another individual who is not authorized to gain access, actually hacking into the computer of another person by way of the Internet, or pretending to be somebody you are not in order to gain access to a system that would not other wise be available to you.

This particular is levied in the second degree if the damages that you caused exceed a value of $2,000, but under $50,000. Computer tampering in the second degree can also be charged against a person that gains unauthorized access to computer material that contains medical records specific to certain people, and such data is then used to alter information that results in serious physical injury. One can also be charged for this crime if he or she were aware of the risk that results from such access that could cause physical injury.

An Example of Computer Tampering in the Second Degree

Imagine that you are a computer technician and you are being sued by another entity for a breach of contract. You might become angry that you are involved in a lawsuit and, as a result, you hack into the computer system that belongs to the attorney for the plaintiff. While you are in the system, you proceed to alter or destroy 30 different documents and pleadings relating to the case in addition to a variety of contract and memos that represent the work of the client. Most of these documents can no longer be recovered as a result of your hack. The documents must then be recreated, creating a lot of work on the part of the attorney. The damage is estimated to be $5,000. This is the basis for the charge of computer tampering in the second degree due to the dollar amount involved and the fact that the access was unauthorized.

Defense of a Computer Tampering in the Second Degree

There are actually several different approaches that your NYC criminal attorney can take with such a case. If you believed that you had access to the computer in question, your innocence can be established. This is regardless of whether or not you actually had permission to access the computer or server. It could also be that someone else accessed the data from your machine, in which case you could be deemed innocent as well.

New York Penal Law 156.25: Computer tampering in the third degree

Unlawful computer access can be defined as gaining access to a computer or a network of computers illegally. It is also defined as allowing another person to have access to that computer illegally. Unauthorized access to a remote computer without permission can be defined as figuring out someone’s password or accessing another computer using the same password. It can also be defined as giving out the password to another person who can use it to access a computer. It can also involve hacking into someone’s remote computer through the internet, accessing someone’s computer without the necessary privileges, or pretending to be the person who should access that computer that is not in your available choices. If you access someone’s computer without the necessary privileges and destroy or alter the network information, the crime you have committed is computer tampering.

There are four types of computer tampering in the New York criminal code. The specific charge you might be entitled to undertake might be determined by the previous criminal record, your reason for destroying or altering the data, and the damage caused. Under the New York penal code 156:25, you might have committed a third-degree computer tampering crime if you access or use a computer service, a computer, or a computer network without the necessary authority to destroy or alter some information stored in the database. You may also:

1. Do so with the main intention to commit a felony
2. Have been convicted of a related offense in a criminal court or a service theft crime that involves avoiding payment after using computer services.
3. Intentionally destroy or alter any computer material, or
4. Intentionally destroy or alter a computer program or data where the damages exceed $1,000.

Ben hacked into a computer system belonging to a local telephony service company on a bet. He used this privilege to shut down 10 telephone services belonging to other callers. Ben could face a prison sentence for the third-degree computer tampering crime. Because he accessed the computer system without the necessary privileges and shut down service for the company’s customers, it is evidence enough that he altered the computer data.

Related offenses
1. Unauthorized computer use: New York Penal Code 156:05
2. Computer trespassing: New York Penal Code 156:10
3. Criminal possession of computer material: New York Penal Code 156:35
4. Service theft: New York Penal Code 165:15
According to the New York computer tampering statute, is that you can show the judge you thought you had the necessary privilege to access this data in the system of equipment. Another defense can be drawn from denying the fact that it wasn’t you who altered or destroyed the data. If the IP address belongs to your computer, you can say someone else used your computer. For this reason, the prosecutor will be challenged.

Third-degree computer tampering is a class C felony. You are likely to face a four-year prison sentence. A five-year probation term can accompany you to the prisons together with a substantial fine.

The nyc criminal attorneys Law Firm
If you or anyone you know is being investigated for the third-degree computer tampering crime, take this investigation with a lot of seriousness. You could end up in a four-year prison term if you are convicted of this crime. You might also be required to pay a substantial fine. The staff at NYC Criminal Attorneys Law Firm has many years of professional experience in representing their clients in the New York criminal courts with charges of embezzlement, grand larceny, and other crimes. For a free consultation session, please call us and talk to an experienced legal representative.

New York Penal Law 156.20: Computer tampering in the fourth degree

While computer tampering in the fourth degree is only a class A misdemeanor in the state of New York, it is nonetheless a serious charge that requires a vigorous defense. A conviction of this type can result in jail time, and there is almost certain to be probation in your future as well. This impacts your ability to gain employment, particularly in any sector in which the safeguarding of computer data is viewed as essential. If you have been charged with this crime, you will want to retain the services of a qualified and experienced NYC criminal attorney as soon as possible.

Computer Tampering in the Fourth Degree Explained

The charge of computer tampering in the fourth degree typically results from an individual being accused of illegally accessing a computer or computer network, or in effect allowing someone else to do that on their behalf. People can gain such illegal access by determining what another person’s password is, giving out a password to someone without proper permission, using the Internet to hack into someone’s computer or server, or presenting to be another individual in an effort to access information that is not otherwise available to you. Computer tampering in the fourth degree is the least serious charge in this category crime levied in New York, primarily because the monetary damages are so small or non-existent. That being said, the charge is still serious and needs to be dealt with swiftly, particularly if you wish to clear your good name.

An Example of Computer Tampering in the Fourth Degree in New York

It is important to remember that this charged is issued against individuals who are suspected of altering or destroying data stored on a computer or server without permission of the owner. This can occur in a number of different ways. One example would be the parent of a high school student who is struggling with his or her grades. In an effort to ensure that they pass and are promoted to the next level, the parent hacks into the school grading system and changes all of the grades to ensure a passing mark. Because the data was access illegally and then altered, the parent could be charged with computer tampering in the fourth degree. In New York, the charge in the fourth degree is usually issued if there is no monetary damage to note, yet the data was unquestionably altered in an unauthorized manner.

Possible Defenses Against a Charge of Computer Tampering in the Fourth Degree

When a NYC criminal attorney in on your side, he or she will immediately set out to analyze the facts pertaining to your case. There are actually several different defenses that could be employed on your behalf in fighting this charge. If you had reason to believe that you had authorizing to access the computer in question, even if the reality is that you did not have permission after all, you could be innocent. It is also possible that somebody else used your own computer without your knowledge to commit the crime. If this can be proven, then your innocence would also be established. The key is to remember that the prosecution must prove that it was who will willfully access another computer in an illegal manner. Barring that, NYC criminal lawyers will work hard to clear your name.

A misdemeanor charge, while not as serious as a felony, still goes on your record. You will, at minimum, receive probation if found guilty. Protect your legal rights and contact a criminal lawyer as soon as you realize you have been charged with this crime.

Understanding the Severity of Unauthorized Computer Usage in New York

In New York, unauthorized computer use is a serious crime according to New York Penal Law 156.05, which states that an individual can be found guilty if they knowingly access or use a computer, computer service, or computer network without the proper authorization. This crime is classified as a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 364 days in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or three years probation. More severe crimes related to unauthorized computer usage include identity theft and various forms of computer tampering.

Unauthorized Use of a Computer: A Real-World Example

Consider the case of Joe, who logged out of his social media account on a public computer. His girlfriend secretly obtained his password while watching him log in, despite Joe’s refusal to share it with her. After witnessing his password, she accessed his account and responded to his private messages without authorization. In this scenario, Joe’s girlfriend may be found guilty of unauthorized use of a computer, as she used his password without his permission and accessed his private messages.

The Importance of Authorization

According to the New York Penal Code section 156.00(8), “without authorization” refers to accessing or using a computer or computer network or service without the owner’s, lessor’s, or a licensed person’s permission. Unauthorized usage is considered presumptive evidence against the defendant, which may be challenged or rebutted.

Defending Against Unauthorized Use of a Computer Accusations

Under section 156.50 of the New York Penal Code, a defense to unauthorized use of a computer charge can be raised if the person believed they had reasonable grounds to believe they were authorized to use the computer in question. Alternatively, the accused may be found not guilty if it’s proven that another individual used their computer without their knowledge or consent to access a third person’s computer unlawfully.

Despite unauthorized computer use being a misdemeanor, it can result in a permanent criminal record associated with deceit or dishonesty, which can negatively impact potential employment, educational opportunities, or housing. However, sentencing alternatives may be available to help you maintain your reputation.

If You’re Facing Charges, Seek Legal Assistance Immediately

If you have been arrested for unauthorized use of a computer, it is essential to refrain from providing any statement or confession to law enforcement, as these can be used against you later. Instead, contact an experienced law firm to aid in your defense. Skilled attorneys with expertise in defending clients charged with computer crimes can provide consultation and case evaluation services.

Other Serious Computer Crimes in New York

New York is a major financial hub and, as such, has stringent laws prohibiting various types of unauthorized computer use. These laws include:

  • Computer Trespass (New York Penal Law 156.10): Individuals who gain unauthorized access to a computer, workstation, network, or service with malicious intent may be found guilty of computer trespass.
  • Computer Tampering: Tampering with computers involves illegally accessing a computer or network to alter or destroy computer data or programs. Penalties vary depending on the extent of the tampering, ranging from the fourth degree (Class A misdemeanor) to the first degree (Class C felony).

These charges, along with other computer crimes such as industrial espionage, copyright infringement, software piracy, and cyber-terrorism, are severely punished and must be taken seriously.

Defending Against Charges of Computer Trespass and Computer Tampering

The defense against computer trespass and computer tampering charges often involves proving that the accused did not have malicious intent, or that the defendant had a valid reason for accessing the computer or network, such as security testing or program debugging. An experienced criminal defense lawyer who understands computer science and criminal law will be best equipped to advocate for those charged with these computer crimes.

The consequences of a conviction for unauthorized computer use can be life-altering, resulting in imprisonment, fines, and a damaged personal and professional reputation. It is crucial to enlist the help of an experienced NYC criminal attorney to defend your rights and explore all legal options available to protect your future.

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