Computers and other technology are working their way into our everyday work and personal lives, from saving work files or family photos in “the cloud” to online banking. With these changes, computer crimes have become an increasing concern. Most U.S. states have enacted laws to address computer and internet-based crimes, such as online scams or cyberbullying. West Virginia has also adopted such laws to catch criminals, no matter what their preferred area.
West Virginia Computer Crimes
The following table briefly explains the computer crime laws in West Virginia.
||West Virginia Code Chapter 61: Crimes, Article 3C: West Virginia Computer Crime and Abuse Act
||West Virginia law prohibits all of the following computer crimes:
- Computer Fraud – Knowingly accessing a computer, service, or network to defraud anyone or obtain money, property or services fraudulently
- Access to Legislature Computer – Knowingly accessing data stored on a legislature’s computer without authorization
- Soliciting a Minor via Computer – Anyone over 18 knowing soliciting or attempting to lure a child known or believed to be at least 4 years younger than the person to commit any illegal act, such as for sexual purposes
- Alteration or Destruction of Computer Equipment – Knowingly deleting, damaging, or destroying any computer, network, software, program, or data or knowingly introducing a computer containment into a computer or network
- Unauthorized Possession of Computer Data or Programs
- Unauthorized Access to Computer Services
- Unauthorized Disruption or Denial of Computer Services
- Unauthorized Possession of Computer Information
- Computer Invasion of Privacy – Accessing a computer or network and examining job, salary, credit, financial, or personal information about another person when one should know unauthorized to look at that information
- Disclosure of Computer Security Information – Knowingly and without authorization disclosing a password, identifying code, PIN, etc. for computer security system of another person
- Obtaining Confidential Governmental Information – Accessing a computer or network to get information filed by a person with the city, state, or county which is required to be kept confidential
||The penalties are specific to the crime, as follows:
- Computer Fraud – A felony fined up to $10,000 and up to 10 years in prison
- Access to Legislature Computer – A felony with up to a $5,000 fine and 5 years imprisonment
- Soliciting a Minor via Computer – Felony with a fine up to $5,000 and 2 to 10 years in prison
- Alteration or Destruction of Computer Equipment –
- If loss of over $1,000, it’s a felony fined at most $10,000 and up to 10 years confinement
- If results in a loss of up to $1,000 it’s a misdemeanor, fined not more than $1,000 and up to six months in jail
- Unauthorized Possession of Computer Data or Programs –
- If valued at $5,000 or more, it’s a felony and punished by $10,000 fine and 10 years in prison
- If valued at less than $5,000, it’s a misdemeanor and fined up to $1,000 and up to one year in jail
- Unauthorized Access to Computer Services, Disruption of Computer Services or Possession of Computer Information – A misdemeanor $200 to $1,000 fine and up to one year in jail
- Disclosure of Computer Security Information, Obtaining Confidential Governmental Information, or Computer invasion of Privacy – Misdemeanor with a $500 fine and six months in jail at most
|Mental State Required for Prosecution
||Usually, the defendant must commit the computer crime knowingly and willfully. You can’t just have accidentally destroyed the computer by spilling a coffee on it.
||Any general defenses, such as innocence, could apply to a computer crime. In addition, the statute provides it’s a defense that the defendant had reasonable grounds to believe he or she had the right to access, alter, copy, or disclose computer or its data, programs, or accessories.
||Attempting to commit a computer crime is still illegal.
||An individual whose property or person has been injured by a computer crime can sue in civil court for compensatory damages (including lost profits), punitive damages (to penalize the wrongdoer), injunctive relief, or other appropriate remedies. The proceedings can be held in a way to protect the secrecy and security of the computer network, data, or programs or trade secrets.
You must sue within five years of the crime or two years after discovering or should reasonably have discovered the violation.
If you’re facing computer-related crime charges, you should immediately consult with an experienced West Virginia criminal defense lawyer.
Note: State laws change frequently. Conduct your own legal research or contact a knowledgeable attorney to verify these computer crime laws.
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