Computer Hacking/Cracking Criminal Defense

typing on laptop

Computer Hacking Criminal Defense

California has some of the most sophisticated computer crime prosecuting agencies. However, proving all of the elements of hacking or cracking can be difficult.  California Penal Code Section 502 creates felony criminal penalties for unauthorized access to computer systems, or disruption to services.  This includes denial of service attacks, and unauthorized access charges. To convict under California Penal Code §502, the prosecution has to prove the following elements: (i) knowingly (ii) accessing and altering/damaging/deleting/destroying/using data to (iii) devise/execute a scheme to defraud or wrongfully control/obtain money, property or data.

There are several ways to defend against a computer fraud case. The strength of the case against a defendant will depend on the individual facts, and the victim’s sophistication in recording the defendant’s actions. 
There are other charges that will likely accompany a computer hacking crime.  For example, if the defendant acted with the help of a co-conspirator, the DA will likely charge a conspiracy crime. Section 182(a)(1) of the California Penal Code makes it a separate crime for “two or more persons” to conspire to “commit any crime” – including computer hacking.

Other possible additional charges include “phishing.” California Anti-Phishing Act of 2005 (Business & Professions Code §§22948–22948.3) restricts requests for information under the disguise of a legitimate entity such as a bank, credit card company, or retailer, and asking the victim to provide personal or financial information.

A person in violation computer related hacking or cracking may also be criminally liable for fraud, burglary, forgery, or theft of trade secrets.

  • Fraud.  Under Penal Code section 489(b), a defendant may be guilty of theft by fraud if he represented was a lawful holder of an access card when he was not, and did so with the purpose of obtaining money with the intent to defraud.  This crime holds a maximum of three years in prison. 
  • Burglary.  Under Penal Code Section 459, If the suspect entered a commercial building with the intent of committing a felony such as a computer crime or fraud, he may be facing up to one year in jail.  If the suspect entered someone’s home, he is facing up to six years in prison. 
  • Forgery.  Under Penal Code section 470(a), if you knowingly create, alter, or use a written document, with the intent to defraud, you are guilty of forgery. Thus if you enter a building intending to commit forgery, you could be charged with burglary and forgery. Felony forgery carries a maximum of three years in prison. 
  • Theft of trade secrets.  Under Penal Code 499c, a person may be guilty of theft of trade secrets if they take or withhold the control of a trade secret (such as customer information, supplier list, or secret formula) from the owner of the trade secret.  This crime carries a maximum of three years in prison.

If you have been contacted by law enforcement for any computer related crime, please contact our office immediately at (408) 816-2311.