Is Hacking a Federal Crime?

 Posted on March 08, 2024 in Computer Crime

IL defense lawyerIn 2022, over 800,000 cybercrime cases were reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Of these instances, over 422 million people were victims of data breaches in the United States.

Computer hacking usually involves gaining access to a government or business computer with the intent to commit fraud or steal privileged information. Hacking usually involves accessing web-based information, generally being charged as a federal offense.

If you or a loved one has been accused of federal hacking, do not hesitate to reach out to our Chicago federal defense attorney.

Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986, codified as 18 U.S.C. § 1030, criminalizes accessing a protected computer. The statute defines computer fraud as knowingly accessing a computer without permission to obtain sensitive information pertaining to the federal government. Under the statute, hacking a “protected” computer is a federal crime.

The Act has been amended several times, with the first amendment passing in the Senate in October 1986. In this amendment, new federal offenses were recognized as computer fraud, including:

  • Stealing a computer with the intention of defrauding
  • Altering, damaging, or destroying information pertaining to a federal government computer and
  • Sharing, selling, or buying stolen passwords

Penalties for Federal Hacking

While the crime can be prosecuted at either the state or federal level, a federal charge does carry more significant consequences.

Certain factors will determine the severity of your punishment, such as:

  • The seriousness of the offense
  • If you have prior offenses
  • The value of the information stolen

For a minor cybercrime, you may be sentenced to a maximum of one year in jail. However, if the monetary value of the information stolen was $5,000 or more, if the act was done for commercial or financial gain, or if the act was in violation of the U.S. Constitution, you may be spending up to five years in jail.

If you access a computer that belongs to a government agency, you can expect to spend up to ten years in prison. If the hacking results in someone’s death, you may be sentenced to life in prison.

Defenses Against Computer Hacking 

A Chicago internet crimes lawyer knows the dire consequences of a hacking conviction. Below, we discuss two possible defenses to computer hacking:

Illegal Search and Seizure

If a police officer seized your computer and accessed information without first obtaining a warrant, this would be in violation of your Fourth Amendment rights.

The government or any official must obtain a valid warrant or establish probable cause before searching any place where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy. There are exceptions to the warrant requirement, but if none of these apply, the discovered information must be discarded.

Lack of Intent

Even if you accessed sensitive information, a prosecutor has to prove that you did so knowingly. This level of intent requires that you be aware of what you are doing and that your actions would cause a particular result. If intent cannot be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, then the charges against you will most likely be dismissed.

Do Not Delay: Contact our Chicago, IL, Internet Crimes Lawyer 

Any crime that threatens our national security will be punished harshly. If you are facing allegations of federal hacking, speak with our Chicago, IL, internet crimes lawyer today. Contact Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel LLC, Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney today online or by calling 312-629-0669 to schedule your free consultation.

Share this post:
Back to Top