Computer crime in Florida costs the state millions of dollars per year. From unauthorized use of another’s email account to breaking into a company’s computer system with the intent of disabling it using a computer virus, the panoply of computer crimes in Florida is quite substantial. Here’s what you need to know if you ever find yourself charged with a computer crime in the state of Florida.
Computer crimes in Florida are laid out in the appropriately named Florida Computer Crimes Act. The Act splits computer crimes into two broad categories
- Crimes against intellectual property, and
- crimes against computer users.
As many (if not most) computer crimes in Florida involve using the Internet, several federal statutes also apply. A person charged with computer crimes in Florida can expect to face charges in both state and federal court for this reason.
The Florida Computer Crimes Act makes willfully, knowingly, and without authorization doing any of the following a crime
- Introducing a contaminant (usually a virus) or modifying or making data unavailable, or making programs or supporting documents unavailable that are either internal or external to a computer, computer system, network, or electronic device,
- destroying data, programs, or supporting documentation within or external to a computer, computer system, network, or electronic device, and
- disclosing or taking data, programs, or supporting documentation from a computer, computer system, network, or electronic device.
In short, accessing and stealing or erasing data from a computer or a network is a violation of Florida’s computer crime law.
In addition to data, willfully, knowingly, and without authorization doing the following to computer users via their computers, computer systems, networks, or electronic devices is illegal in Florida:
- Accessing or causing to be accessed a computer, system, network, or electronic device while knowing that they are doing so without authorization, disrupting the ability to transmit data to or from an authorized user of a computer or computer system owned by someone else,
- destroys, damages, or takes computer equipment or supplies of another, destroys, damages, or takes a computer, introduces a contaminant (virus) into a computer or computer system,
- surveils another individual via audio or visual means by accessing a computer or data on that computer that is stored by a third party.
Offenses against intellectual property under the Florida Computer Crimes Act is a third degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. However, a conviction becomes a second degree felony if committed with the intent of defrauding or obtaining property, and is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Offenses against computer users are also a third degree felony unless
- the damage to a computer or computer system exceeds $5,000,
- commits the crime with the intent of defrauding or obtaining property,
- interrupts a government, communications network, or utility service, or
- interrupts data transmitted by public or private transit.
Such crimes are a second degree felony. An offense against computer users becomes a first degree felony if they
- Endanger human life or
- disrupt a computer or computer system involved in directly administering medical care.
A conviction on these grounds could lead to a prison sentence of up to 30 years and a fine of up to $10,000.