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NY Penal Law Article 156 Computer Crimes

In the past we’ve expounded on New York penal laws that have to do with the physical world. But as things have gone increasingly digital, so too have a lot of our crimes migrated to this new realm. So in today’s post we’re going to talk a little bit about computer trespass and tampering laws, starting with some definitions of terms.

Offenses involving computers; definition of terms.

  • When we talk about a computer, we mean a device that, using some sort of technology, can automatically perform certain tasks, including devices that allow the computer to store and later access data.
  • A computer program is an ordered set of data that represents coded instructions that allow the computer to process data and perform operations.
  • Computer data is considered property, and it represents information, facts, concepts, or other types of knowledge that are processed in a computer.

Wherever there’s proof that someone used a computer in a way that bypasses or defrauds a security measure, this is evidence that the person used or accessed this computer without prior authorization.

  • Felony is basically any felony defined in the laws of New York state, or any offense defined in the laws of any other type of jurisdiction.

Unauthorized use of a computer.

First on the list of charges we have unauthorized use of a computer. You’re guilty of this one when you knowingly use a computer without prior authorization. This is a class A misdemeanor.

Computer trespass.

Computer trespass is when you knowingly use a computer without authorization and do this with the intent to commit a felony or knowingly gain access to computer material. This one is a bit more serious, and is a class E felony.

Computer tampering in the fourth degree.

Computer tampering in the fourth degree is when you use a computer without authorization and intentionally alter or destroy data or someone else’s program. This crime is charged as a class A misdemeanor.

Computer tampering in the third degree.

This crime is when you commit the previous crime we mentioned and then go ahead and do this with the intent to commit a felony, or if you’ve been previously convicted of any crime under this article, or if you intentionally alter or destroy some computer material. Computer tampering in the third degree is a class E felony.

Computer tampering in the second degree.

Now to be guilty of this one, you’ll have to have committed computer tampering in the fourth degree and then intentionally alter or destroy data in a total amount of more than $3,000, or else computer material that holds medical records, and due to this destruction one of these people suffers an injury. This is considered a class D felony.

Computer tampering in the first degree.

Computer tampering in the first degree is when you commit the crime of computer tampering in the fourth degree and then intentionally alter or destroy data or a computer program in a way that causes damages of more than $50,000. This is considered a class C felony.

Now for this particular crime, you’d have to copy or reproduce computer material that has medical records on it without the permission to do so. This crime is considered a class B misdemeanor.

Same thing here, but some distinctions are that this would include any data that deprives its owner of some sort of benefit in excess of $2,500, or any data or program with an attempt to commit a felony. This is considered a class E felony.

This crime involves knowingly possessing a copy or reproduction of data or a program without having the right to do so. This crime is charged as a class E felony.

Operating an unlawful electronic sweepstakes.

Before we get into the charges for this one, let’s look at one of the terms.

  • Electronic machine or device is an electronically operated machine that’s owned by a sweepstakes sponsor and is intended to be used by an entrant into the sweepstakes.

Now, to be guilty of operating an unlawful electronic sweepstakes, you’d have to knowingly place a device to conduct a sweepstakes with the use of a display, or promote a sweepstakes that’s conducted via an entertaining display. Nothing in this section is considered illegal when it’s operated by the New York state lottery for education. This particular crime is charged as a class E felony.

Offenses involving computers; defenses.

Lastly we’ve got offenses involving computers, and the defenses of these. It’s considered a legitimate defense if you had reason to believe that you had authorized use of the computer in question, or that you had reason to believe you had the right to alter computer data or programs, or if you had reason to believe that you had the right to copy or reproduce computer data or a computer program.
See? That was relatively painless. While lawyers and their associates have to contend with mountains of legalese, we don’t believe you should have to.


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