Computer Crime Charges

New Jersey Internet Crime Defense Attorney

Computer crime, cyber crime, and hacking are serious offenses under New Jersey law, as are other computer crimes such as internet fraud, credit card fraud, identity theft, internet pornography, and cyber stalking. If you've been charged with any of these offenses, whether arising from an isolated incident or from a long term fraudulent act, you need a New Jersey Internet Crime Attorney.

Charged with Computer Crime in New Jersey?

My name is Anthony N. Palumbo, and I am a former prosecutor, current criminal defense lawyer, and partner at the law firm of Palumbo & Renaud. If you've been charged with a computer or internet crime in New Jersey, you need a skilled Computer Crime Lawyer on your side. Contact me for a free and confidential consultation through the email form on my website or at 1-866-664-8118. With over 35 years of experience as a prosecutor and criminal defense attorney, I know which defenses will work for you, and I'm ready to aggressively defend your rights.

Computer criminal activity

The offense of computer criminal activity encompasses a broad range of activity, but generally occurs when a person, purposely and knowingly, and without authorization, accesses or interferes with data or computer systems. More specifically, section 2C:20-25 of the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice provides that:

  • it's a third degree crime for a person to access any data, computer storage medium, computer program or software, computer equipment, computer system, or computer network;
  • it's a second degree crime for a person to alter, damage, or destroy any data, computer storage medium, computer program or software, computer equipment, computer system, or computer network, or to deny, disrupt, or impair computer services, including access to any part of the internet, that are available to other users of the computer services;
  • it's a third degree crime for a person to access or attempt to access any data, computer storage medium, computer program or software, computer equipment, computer system, or computer network for the purpose of executing a scheme to defraud, or to obtain services, property, personal identifying information, or money, from the owner of a computer or any third party, but the offense is upgraded to a second degree crime if the value of the services, property, personal identifying information, or money obtained exceeds $5,000;
  • it's a third degree crime for a person to obtain, take, copy or use any data, computer program or software, personal identifying information, or other information stored in a computer, computer storage medium, or computer equipment, network or system, except that the offense is upgraded to a second degree crime if the data, computer program, software, or information:
    • contains personal identifying information, medical diagnoses, treatments or other medical information concerning an identifiable person; or
    • contains governmental records or other information that is protected from disclosure by law, court order or rule of court; or
    • has a value exceeding $ 5,000
  • However, it's an affirmative defense if the offender can prove by clear and convincing evidence that he obtained, copied, or accessed a computer program or software that had a retail value of less than $1,000 and didn't disseminate or disclose it to anyone else; and
  • it's a fourth degree crime for a person to access and recklessly alter, damage or destroy any data, computer storage medium, computer program or software, computer equipment, computer system, or computer network, except that it becomes a third degree offense if the vale of the damage exceeds $5,000.

A conviction for any of the above activities is upgraded to a first degree offense if it results in a substantial interruption or impairment of public communications, transportation, water supplies, gas or power, or any other public service. For an interruption to be substantial, it must affect 10 or more structures, last for at least two hours, create a risk of death or significant bodily injury, cause damages in excess of $250,000, or cause significant bodily injury to any individual.

Sentencing for computer criminal activity

Under New Jersey law, the sentences and fines for crimes are typically as follows:

  • Fourth degree crime - up to 18 months imprisonment and up to $10,000 in fines
  • Third degree crime - 3 to 5 years imprisonment and up to $15,000 in fines
  • Second degree crime - 5 to 10 years imprisonment and up to $150,000 in fines
  • First degree crime - 10 to 20 years imprisonment and up to $200,000 in fines

The computer criminal activity statute includes several specific sentencing provisions, however, requiring that:

  • every sentence of imprisonment for a first degree computer crime must include a minimum term of parole ineligibility for one third to one half of the full sentence;
  • if the victim is a government agency, then any conviction for computer criminal activity must include a period of imprisonment with a minimum term of parole ineligibility for one third to one half of the full sentence imposed, and it's not a defense that the offender didn't know or intend for the victim to be a government agency;
  • separate charges for computer criminal activity can't be merged with each other or with charges for wrongful access and disclosure (discussed below), which can result in much lengthier sentences; and
  • additionally, under N.J.S.A. § 2C:43-3.8, a person convicted for computer criminal activity must pay a special fine for each offense, ranging from $500 to $2,000 depending on the severity of the offense, with these fines going toward a Computer Crime Prevention Fund.

Wrongful access disclosure

In addition to the offense of computer criminal activity, section 2C:20-31 of the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice makes it illegal for a person, purposely and knowingly, and without authorization, to access any data, computer, computer storage medium, software, computer equipment, or computer system and to knowingly or recklessly disclose any of the data, software, or personal identifying information found therein. Wrongful access and disclosure is a third degree crime, but it can be upgraded to a second degree offense if the offender purposely or knowingly disclosed any data, software, or other information that was protected by law, court order, or rule of court.

Sentencing for wrongful disclosure

As with computer criminal activity, every sentence for wrongful disclosure must include a period of imprisonment with a minimum term of parole ineligibility for one third to one half of the full sentence.

Credit card fraud

Credit card fraud in New Jersey is an extensive area of the law that involves many different crimes, including:

  • making false statements to obtain a credit card;
  • credit card theft;
  • receiving a lost, mislaid, or mistakenly delivered credit card;
  • selling or buying a credit card from anyone other than issuer;
  • obtaining a credit card to secure a debt;
  • counterfeiting a credit card;
  • signing a credit card without authorization;
  • fraudulent use of a credit card;
  • using or accepting for payment a credit card knowing it was revoked, forged, or expired; and
  • receiving anything of value as result of credit card fraud.

Most credit card fraud offenses are either third or fourth degree crimes, carrying penalties ranging from 18 months to 5 years in prison.

Identity theft

A charge of identity theft can result from any number of actions, including serious offenses such as using a stranger's social security or credit card number, as well as more mundane offenses like using a friend's telephone calling card. The law provides that it's a disorderly persons offense to do any of the following:

  • impersonate someone else or assumes a false identity for the purpose of obtaining a benefit or to injure or defraud another;
  • pretend to be a representative of some person or organization for the purpose of obtaining a benefit or to injure or defraud another;
  • impersonate someone else, assume a false identity, or make a false or misleading statement regarding someone else's identity for the purpose of obtaining services;
  • obtain any personal identifying information pertaining to another person and use that information in order to assume his identity, with the purpose to fraudulently obtain a benefit, avoid the payment of a debt, or avoid prosecution for a crime; or
  • impersonate someone else or assume a false identity with the purpose of avoiding payment for prior services.

Although the default classification of identity theft is a disorderly persons offense, punishable by up to 6 months in jail as well as fines and restitution, an identity theft charge will be upgraded under a number of circumstances:

  • it becomes a fourth degree crime, punishable by up to 18 months in prison as well as fines and restitution, if the benefit/deprivation is less than $500 and the fraud is on one person, except that subsequent convictions will be third degree crimes;
  • it becomes a third degree crime, punishable by 3 to 5 years in prison as well as fines and restitution, if the benefit/deprivation is between $500 and $75,000 or the fraud is on 2 to 4 people; and
  • it becomes a second degree crime, punishable by 5 to 10 years in prison as well as fines and restitution, if the benefit/deprivation is more than $75,000 or the fraud is on 5 or more people.

Internet sex crimes

Downloading child pornography from a computer can get you into a lot of trouble, including jail time, fines, and registration as a sex offender. Even just looking at child pornography, without downloading it, is illegal in New Jersey. A conviction for possession of child pornography carries a penalty of 5 to 10 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. Distributing child pornography also carries a 5 to 10 year prison sentence, with fines of up to $250,000 in addition. Also, charges for distribution are usually accompanied by charges for possession, which increases the penalties significantly.

Cyber stalking

In order to be convicted of stalking in New Jersey, a person must purposefully or knowingly engage in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear death or bodily injury to herself or a member of her immediate family. Under the statute, a "course of conduct" means that the stalker must either engage in visual or physical proximity to the victim on at least two separate occasions, or convey a threat by any means on at least two separate occasions. "Any means" includes electronic communications, as well as calling, writing, confronting the victim in person, or threatening her indirectly.

Stalking is a usually a fourth degree offense, punishable by up to 18 months in prison, but certain factors can enhance the charge to a third degree crime, such as stalking someone when there's already a court order in place prohibiting the stalking, stalking someone that the offender has already been convicted of stalking, or stalking someone while in jail or on parole. When stalking is a third degree offense, it carries a penalty of 3 to 5 years in prison as well as heavy fines. Additionally, stalking convictions are often accompanied by permanent restraining orders.

Getting the legal representation that you need

If you've been charged with an internet or computer crime, the best thing that you can do is to contact a New Jersey defense lawyer. As an experienced internet crime defense lawyer and a New Jersey computer crime attorney, I will give you an honest assessment of the charges that you face, your best available defenses, and the possible outcomes of your case. To learn what I can do to eliminate or reduce your computer crime charges, contact me for a free and confidential consultation through the email form on my website or at 1-866-664-8118.

Palumbo & Renaud is a criminal defense law firm with offices in Cranford, Elizabeth and Newark. Palumbo & Renaud represents clients with other white collar criminal charges, and defends many other criminal charges as well throughout New Jersey, including Essex County, Hudson County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Ocean County and Union County.