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New Braunfels Cyber Crimes Lawyer

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Texas has enacted state laws for computer crimes. Chapter 33 of the Texas Penal Code contains these offenses.

I Can Help

Contact me for a free case review if you are charged with a cyber crime in Comal County or other Central Texas counties such as Hays County, Guadalupe County, Travis County, or Bexar County.

Breach of Computer Security

Texas Penal Code Section 33.02 describes the offense of breach of computer security. A defendant commits this offense if they:

  • Knowingly accesses a computer, computer network, or a computer system;
  • The access occurs without the effective consent of the owner

Thus, there does not necessarily need to be any information taken or money stolen due to unlawful access for a defendant to be found guilty of breach of computer security.

Certain circumstances can result in an enhancement of the offense level and accompanying punishments for the crime:

  • If the defendant accesses the computer, computer network, or computer system with the intent to alter, damage, or delete property (in this case, the aggregate amount of damage caused is considered in determining the precise punishment received).
  • If the defendant obtained identifying information of another person;
  • If the defendant accessed two or more computers, computer networks, or computer systems in obtaining identifying information of another.

Texas law permits the government to consider several separate “breaches” against a victim as one offense. If the government does so, it can take the damage caused by each breach or the number of computer systems used in total and add these together.

This aggregation can cause what might otherwise be ten or twenty separate breaches, each causing $1,000 or less in financial damage to the victim, to be lumped together and prosecuted as if the defendant committed a single act of breach of computer security resulting in $10,000 or $20,000.

Defenses to Breach of Computer Security

Texas law recognizes that a defense to a charge of breach of computer security exists for a person who accesses a computer, computer network, or computer system to facilitate a lawful search or lawful seizure of that computer, computer network, or computer system for a legitimate law enforcement purpose. In other words, the law protects an individual who accesses a computer, computer network, or computer system upon the request of law enforcement under a search warrant.

It is also a defense to a charge of breach of computer security if the person charged with the offense accessed the computer lawfully or with the consent of the owner of the computer, computer network, or computer system.

Online Impersonation

Online impersonation, criminalized by Texas Penal Code Section 33.07, prohibits a person who does not have the consent of another to:

  • Use the other person’s name or persona to create a web page or a web page on a commercial social networking site or posting one or more messages using a commercial social networking site or Internet page to threaten, intimidate, defraud, or harm another person;
  • Sending an email, text message, instant message, or similar communication to another using the identifying information belonging to another:
  • Without the consent of the other person;
  • With the intent to cause the recipient to reasonably believe the other person authorized or transmitted the communication; and
  • With the intent to harm or defraud any person.

Defense of an online impersonation charge starts with an “overbreadth” challenge. This defense asserts that the statute is unconstitutional because it violates the first amendment. Since the defense is that the entire law is unconstitutional, the evidence does not matter.

Defenses to a charge of online impersonation exist for individuals who are employees of the following entities and whose actions consist only of actions taken in the course of their work for these entities:

  • A commercial social networking site;
  • An internet service provider;
  • An interactive computer service;
  • A telecommunications provider; or
  • A video service provider.

A person must undertake the activity for one of these entities during employment. Under the statute’s language, it is not a defense if a person exceeded the scope of their job duties. For example, it is not likely the defense can use the statute to defend an employee of a social networking site who used their job position to send threatening messages or messages asking for money from their ex-spouse’s family and friends while posing as their ex-spouse.

I Can Help

Contact me for a free case review if you are charged with a cyber crime in Comal County or other Central Texas counties such as Hays County, Guadalupe County, Travis County, or Bexar County.

 

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