Computer Crimes and the CFAA

The Counterfeit Access Device and Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1984 (“the Act”) governs an array of computer crimes. This is the first attempt by the federal government to legislatively define computer crimes. Some creative criminal lawyers have argued that the legislation is redundant since enforcement actions for so called computer crime are already covered by other offenses, such as wire fraud and mail fraud. For good or for bad, computer crimes are now codified and are designed to assist prosecutors in convicting alleged computer related crimes.

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is lauded by some as a computer protection device to safeguard against the supposed legions of criminals roaming the internet. Despite its invention, it has done little to change the way criminal defense attorneys defend these cases. The prosecution can wrap a crime into just about any theory it desires. The elements of proof come down to the same thing, regardless of the medium alleged to have aided our client in committing the crime. Predictably, 18 U.S.C.A. § 1030 turned out to be very broad. It includes 7 distinct actions that are categorized as “computer crime.” The focus is often framed as “unauthorized computer access.”

Our New York Criminal Defense Lawyers have successfully defended our clients from a number of computer crime prosecutions. Like the wire and mail fraud statutes before it, so called computer crimes are nothing more than an overly broad repackaging of the same government allegations. We argue that these mechanisms are inappropriately redundant and focus on form over substance in defining what constitutes a federal crime. This is a new advent and illustrates the government inability to grasp new technology and advances. For crimes of old, such as robbery, stealing using the threat of force was stealing using the threat of force, whether the criminal defendant allegedly used a knife or a base ball bat. Despite the confusion that stems from this type of legislative window dressing, throwing a computer at your victim does not make you a computer criminal.

The shrewd criminal attorney can use this confusion to his or her advantage. For more information, please visit our Computer, Internet, & Cyber Crime page.

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