In today’s electronic world the average person communicates via computer, pays bills on a computer, and counts on a computer for information on everything from travel plans to financial advice. While the electronic age has certainly made life easier in many ways, it has also ushered in a type of criminal – the cyber-criminal. Because the concept of cyber-crime is relatively new, most people know very little about cyber-crimes. For example, are cyber-crimes a federal offense?
In order to answer that question it helps to first clarify what is meant by “cyber-crimes.” The definition of “cyber-crime” is extremely broad. Basically, any illegal conduct conducted on the internet, or through the use of any other computer or computer network, potentially qualified as a cyber-crime. Some common examples of crimes that can fall into the category of “cyber-crimes” include:
· Accessing a computer without proper authorization
· Obtaining sensitive or secret government information through the use of a computer
· Trafficking in passwords
· Viruses and worms
· Solicitation of minors
· Money laundering
· Theft of securities or other valuables
· Identity theft
· Stalking, Threatening and/or bullying
Many cyber-crimes are, indeed, federal offenses; however, most states now have corresponding offenses as well. At the federal level, the “Computer Fraud and Abuse Act,” was enacted in 1986, to address the new and emerging area of cyber-crimes because existing laws fell short of doing so. Today, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or F.B.I., has special units and task forces devoted to nothing but pursuing cyber-criminals. As a general rules, federal law enforcement focuses on large scale cyber scams and crimes, such as high volume money laundering, wide scale identity theft operations, and hacking aimed at government networks. Because the internet disseminates information across state lines, crimes such as child pornography and solicitation of minors, when conducted over the internet, can also be charged at the federal level.
The State of Nebraska, however, has also addressed the growing area of cyber-crimes with the passage of the “Nebraska Computer Crimes Act.” Many of the same, or similar, offenses found in the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act are also illegal under the Nebraska Computer Crimes Act. Therefore, a defendant could be charged at the state level, the federal level, or both in some cases for a cyber-crime. Often, the decision of where to prosecute a defendant boils down to which agency conducted the investigation and/or which agency has the best chance of obtaining a conviction.
If you have been charged with a cyber-crime by either the U.S. Department of Justice or by the State of Nebraska you could be facing serious penalties if convicted. Contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
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