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.
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.