The Internet and computer technology generally have spawned new criminal offenses (aka cyber crimes), and new ways to commit old offenses. Under Texas law, computer crimes are treated seriously, and can carry serious potential penalties.
Child pornography offenses do not necessarily require a computer, but the vast majority of these cyber crime cases do involve use of a computer in downloading contraband material from the Internet. Possession of Child Pornography is usually a third-degree felony carrying a penalty of 2-10 years in prison. Promotion or Possession With Intent to Promote Child Pornography is usually a second-degree felony carrying a penalty of 2-20 years in prison. Both these offenses involve visual material that depicts a child younger than 18 years of age engaging in sexual conduct. In addition to substantial prison time, these offenses also carry the requirement of registration as a sex offender.
Online Solicitation of a Minor is usually a third-degree felony carrying a penalty of 2-10 years in prison, but if the minor is younger than 14 years of age or even if the offender believes the minor to be under 14, then the offense is a second-degree felony carrying a penalty of 2-20 years in prison. In fact, if a 40 year-old police detective pretends to be a minor online, then he IS a minor for purposes of the law. Anyone who has ever watched “To Catch a Predator” on Dateline NBC has seen this offense committed by a parade of people. This cyber crime does not require that the offender and the victim actually meet in person, or even agree to meet in person. All that is required to commit the offense is for the person to communicate in a sexually explicit manner with a minor or to distribute sexually explicit material to a minor. Actually soliciting a minor to meet for sexual contact, though, is much more serious and is a second degree felony carrying a penalty of 2-20 years in prison.
Cyber Crimes: Online Impersonation
Social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, is fertile ground for cyber crimes as well. Online Impersonation is an offense involving pretending to be someone else on a social networking site or by means of email, Tweets, or text messages. It is a third-degree felony carrying a penalty of 2-10 years in prison if a person uses the name or persona of another person, without their consent, on a social networking site or other website, with the intent to harm, defraud, intimidate, or threaten any person. It is usually a Class A misdemeanor, carrying a penalty of up to one year in county jail, to send an email, instant message, or text message that references another person’s identifying information without their consent, with the intent to make the recipient of the message believe the other person transmitted or authorized the communication, if the offender’s intent is to harm or defraud anyone. If the intent was to solicit a response by emergency personnel like police, fire, or ambulance, the act is a third-degree felony carrying a penalty of 2-10 years in prison.
Hacking a computer, even without causing damage, is an offense under Texas law. Breach of Computer Security is an offense with a penalty range anywhere from a Class B misdemeanor to a first-degree felony. It involves knowingly accessing a computer or network without the owner’s consent. The punishment is in the higher range if the person acts with the intent to defraud or harm another, or to alter, damage, or delete property.
Cyber crimes are highly complex cases often involving detailed forensic evidence. Throughout my career I have become quite experienced in evaluating and attacking law enforcement’s computer forensic testing and witnesses. This experience is critical in achieving the best result possible under the facts and circumstances. The government often relies upon a mountain of impressive-looking paper that may mean nothing at all once it has been thoroughly evaluated.
If you or a family member have been arrested or charged with any cyber crime or other computer-related offense, I can help you. Call me or email me directly from this page. Your initial consultation will be free of charge.