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Mississippi Computer Crimes Laws

A computer crime is any crime that uses a computer or the Internet to defraud or harm another person or property. Computer crimes committed in Mississippi are investigated and prosecuted by the Cyber Crime Unit of the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office. The Cyber Crime Unit also provides training and public awareness on crimes that involve computers and the Internet. Because many of these crimes cross state boundaries, federal law enforcement and the U.S. Department of Justice are frequently also involved in these cases. Additionally, the local district attorney can also prosecute computer crimes.

The table below outlines the main computer crimes in Mississippi.

Code Section Mississippi Code Title 97: Crimes, Chapter 45: Computer Crimes & Identity Theft
Mental State For all crimes, a defendant must have a certain mental state. In legalese, this is known by the Latin “mens rea” or guilty mind. For computer crime laws in Mississippi, you must have intentionally committed the crime; accidentally damaging someone else’s computer isn’t enough.
Computer Crimes Mississippi law prohibits all of the following computer crimes:
  • Computer Fraud – accessing any computer, system, or network (including through the Internet, such as cloud-based networking) with the intent to defraud, obtain money, property, or services fraudulently, or to insert or attach a set of instructions in the computer, program, system, or network that’s intended to alter, damage, or destroy property or use services of that computer or network
  • Offenses Against Computer Users – Intentionally denying an authorized user, without his or her consent, full and effective use of a computer, system, network, or computer service OR disclosing to another, without the user’s consent, any passwords used to access a computer or system
  • Offenses Against Computer Equipment – Intentionally modifying or destroying, without consent, computer equipment or supplies used or intended to be used in a computer, system, or network
  • Offenses Against Intellectual Property – Intentionally destroying, modifying, or inserting intellectual property, without consent, OR disclosing, using, copying, taking, or accessing without consent intellectual property

If another crime was committed in the process, such as theft or burglary, you can also be charged with that crime.

A civil penalty of double the reasonable costs of the Attorney General’s Office, District Attorney’s Office, and police departments involved in investigating the computer crime will be assessed and the money will be divided among the agencies that worked on the case.

Penalty The penalty for all of the above computer crimes depends on the damages sustained by the victim or equipment, as follows:
  • If less than $1,000 in damage, a fine of not more than $1,000 and no more than 6 months in jail, if community-based treatment can’t be safely accomplished, or 1 year probation
    • After 3 or more convictions of at least $500 damage, a prison term of up to 3 years and a fine up to $2,000 can be imposed
  • For $1,000 to $5,000 of damage, a fine of up to $10,000 and imprisonment of up to 5 years is the penalty
  • For damage of $5,000 to $25,000, the punishment is a fine of up to $10,000 and imprisonment for up to 10 years
  • For $25,000 or more in damage, the fine is not more than $10,000 and at most 20 years in prison
Attempted Computer Crimes Attempted computer crimes aren’t considered crimes. For other crimes, like murder, you don’t have to succeed to be charged because attempt is still a crime.
Cyberstalking Abusers use all the tools they can to get to their victims. One way is using computers. It’s illegal in Mississippi to “cyberstalk” a victim by doing any of the following:

  • Use e-mail or other electronic communications to threaten physical harm to a person or his or her relatives, harm to the victim’s property, or to blackmail them
  • Send repeated communications to threaten or harass
  • Make false statements about the death, injury, or illness of a person’s family member to terrify or harass the victim
  • Permit a computer, phone, or other device under one’s control be used for this purpose
The penalty for cyberstalking is usually up to 2 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. However, if the abuser has a prior conviction, the offense is completed in violation of a restraining order, injunction, or probation or pretrial release condition, or a credible threat is communicated to the victim or his or her family or household member, the penalty is increased to 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

It’s a defense that the communication was peaceable, nonthreatening activity intended to express political views or provide lawful information to others. This crime isn’t to impair constitutionally protected free speech.
Cyberbullying With new technology, comes new ways to commit old harms. Mississippi outlaws cyberbullying or posting messages on social media to cause injury to any person. This is a felony punished by up to 5 years imprisonment and at most a $10,000 fine.

Note: State laws change regularly, it’s best to conduct your own legal research to verify these laws or contact an experienced Mississippi criminal defense lawyer with any questions, especially if you’re charged with a computer-related crime.

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