Computers are powerful tools that have the potential for misuse. If you live online, or are a tech whiz, you have likely used your computer skills for personal gain. But actions that seemed benign may cause you to face charges for computer crimes, which can come with serious penalties. Yet, you must understand if your behavior qualifies as a criminal offense, which may hinge on whether you knew it was illegal.

Understanding computer crimes

Computer crime encompasses a broad swath of nefarious virtual activity. What these actions have in common, though, is the aim to disrupt a computer, system or network, and to delete, destroy or steal information on them. These crimes not only affect access and operation, they can harm user confidentiality.

In California, computer crimes can come with serious penalties, no matter the offense. If your charges lead to conviction, you could face up to three years in jail. And you may have to pay a fine of up to $10,000 as well.

Defenses against computer crimes

The outcome of computer crime cases often hinges of the accused’s knowledge of their actions. For your charges to lead to conviction, a prosecutor must prove your actions aimed to destroy information, defraud consumers, extort individuals or appropriate property. Your actions, too, must have involved the knowing access of a computer, system or network without permission. Yet, your charges may stem from illegal behaviors you engaged in unknowingly. If you acted without knowledge that these behaviors were criminal, a prosecutor may have difficulty proving your intent.

Computer crime charges may seem insignificant to you. Yet, your digital actions can have serious repercussions on your offline livelihood. An attorney with criminal defense experience can help you weigh your options for working through your charges.