An Experienced West Palm Beach Criminal Lawyer Answers the Most Common Questions About Cybercrime

As criminal lawyers, we receive questions from potential clients and their family members about cybercrime. Cybercrimes, also known as computer crimes in Florida, are illegal activities involving computers, digital technology, and web networks. If a crime is committed online or using computer technology, it is considered "cyber." Cybercrime is a relatively new category of criminal activity, and many of our clients are unaware of the actions and implications associated with this term.

Whether you have received a cybercrime charge or are looking to help a loved one who has, understanding the basics of cybercrime is essential. Read on to learn the answers to a few of the most common questions our criminal lawyer team receives about cybercrime.

What is the Florida Computer Crimes Act?

In Florida's public and private sectors, computer-related crime had become a growing problem. Although various types of computer crimes could be prosecuted under existing laws, the Florida legislature passed legislation prohibiting the most commonly prosecuted computer crimes from being committed on a computer.

Chapter 815 of the Florida Statutes, also known as the “Florida Computer Crimes Act," describes these offenses. 

What Are the Types of Florida Computer Crimes Act Offenses?

The Florida Computer Crimes Act includes three types of offenses: those involving intellectual property, computer users, and public utilities. A brief summary of these offenses is below. You can read the Florida Computer Crimes Act in its entirety here.

  • Offenses against intellectual property; public records exemption. These crimes involve contaminating, destroying, or stealing confidential data through digital means. Hacks and data breaches are two primary examples of crimes against intellectual property.
  • Offenses against users of computers, computer systems, computer networks, and electronic devices. These crimes involve accessing or disrupting data transmission to another person’s computer without their permission. This category also encompasses surveilling another person through their computer.
  • Offenses against public utilities. These crimes involve gaining unauthorized access or tampering with a computer, computer system, computer network, or an electronic device owned, operated, or used by a public utility, such as electricity and natural gas.

Is Cybercrime a White-Collar Crime?

Cybercrime is sometimes an example of a white-collar crime, which is a financially motivated, nonviolent crime. Other examples of white-collar crimes include:

However, not all cybercrimes are white-collar crimes. For example, surveilling another person through their computer could be a form of stalking.

Do You Need a Lawyer If You’re Charged With Cybercrime?

Having a criminal defense attorney on your side is essential if you face any criminal charges. Criminal charges can result in severe punishments and involve complex legal processes. If you’re unfamiliar with the criminal defense process, you risk harming your case by attempting to navigate it alone.

However, cybercrime cases can be complex and confusing. Many people who receive cybercrime charges were unaware that their actions were illegal. Additionally, proving who was behind the computer when a crime occurred can be challenging, and as a result, false accusations abound in the cybercriminal justice field. 

A criminal attorney can help you present an effective defense in the face of your cybercriminal charges. They know the state and federal statutes related to cybercrime like the back of their hand, giving them the knowledge necessary to defend you well.

Hiring a criminal defense attorney is an essential step in receiving a favorable outcoming from your cybercrime charge.

What is the Punishment for Cybercrime?

If charged with a cybercrime, the exact punishment you face depends on the precise charge received, your criminal record, and numerous other factors.

However, you should know that Florida’s legal system takes cybercrimes seriously. Typically, the state considers crimes against intellectual property and computer use third-degree felonies. The punishments for these crimes may include:

  • Up to five years in prison
  • Up to five years of probation
  • Up to $5,000 in fines

The legal system may elevate these charges to second-degree felonies depending on the specific circumstances. Second-degree felonies can result in the following punishments:

  • Up to 15 years in prison
  • Up to 15 years of probation
  • Up to $10,000 in fines

What Defenses are Possible Against Cybercrime Charges?

There are several reasons a person may have been wrongfully accused of a cybercrime charge. Our team has presented the following defenses for cybercrime clients in the past:

  • Mistaken Identity: Even though legal teams can often track cyber activity back to a specific computer, IP address, and location, they typically have no way of proving who sat behind the computer. Mistaken identities are common among cybercriminal charges.
  • Lack of Intent: The prosecution must show that a defendant acted with intent and knowledge when committing a cybercrime. They may have no grounds to convict you without evidence of this willfulness.
  • Miranda Rights Violations: If the police officer failed to read a defendant their Miranda rights during an arrest, the defendant's statements cannot be admissible in court.
  • Consent: The defendant must not have had the computer user's consent for cyber activity against another computer user to be considered criminal. If the defendant can show that they had the owner's permission or believed they had permission, the punishment may be less severe.

Ron Chapman: Your West Palm Beach County Criminal Defense Lawyer if You Have Been Charged with a Cybercrime

Practicing since 1990, attorney Ron Chapman is a criminal defense lawyer with 32 years of experience who can help if you or a loved one are under investigation for a computer crime prosecuted under the Florida Computer Crimes Act. He has helped many clients in situations like yours during this time. To discuss your next steps, call for a meeting with Mr. Chapman at (561) 832-4348 or complete our online form

Copyright© 2022. Ronald S. Chapman, P.A. All rights reserved.

The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.

Ronald S. Chapman, P.A.
400 Clematis St. Suite 206
West Palm Beach, FL 33401
(561) 832-4348
https://www.justiceflorida.com/

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