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Computer Tampering in the Fourth Degree: NY Penal Law 156.20

Computer Tampering in the Fourth Degree: NY Penal Law 156.20

Computer Tampering in the Fourth Degree, New York Penal Law 156.20, is one of the more common cybercrimes or computer offenses committed in New York State. While each state and the federal government has its own laws regulating the misuse and unauthorized access of computers, computer networks and related systems, New York’s offenses have multiple elements while others are fairly basic. Fourth Degree Computer Tampering falls into the former category of offenses, but at the same time is a crime that upon conviction carries a significant “punch.” A class “A” misdemeanor with punishment by up to one year in jail, have no misgivings about NY Penal Law 156.20. A felony it is not, but a lifelong criminal record you will have when the judge slams down his or her gavel. To best protect yourself from incarceration and a crippling criminal conviction, be sure to fully vet your case and viable defenses with an experienced New York cybercrime lawyer.

New York Penal Law 156.20: The Elements of Fourth Degree Computer Tampering

Many New York computer crime and cybercrime attorneys describe Computer Tampering in the Fourth Degree as a foundational offense. Simply, NY PL 156.20 is the base level Computer Tampering crime that all other greater and more significant felony offenses stem. Whether the accusation is in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens or in the Hudson Valley’s Westchester, Putnam, Rockland or Dutchess counties, all degrees of Computer Tampering must incorporate this base level crime.

Generally, you are guilty of Computer Tampering in the Fourth Degree when you merely access, without permission or authority a computer, computer service or computer network. Accessing a computer without the explicit or inferred agreement by the custodian or owner of the computer, however, is not sufficient by itself to violate PL 156.20. Instead, you must take other steps and actions. More specifically, in addition to the improper access, you must also intentionally alter or destroy a computer program or data regardless of how much or to what degree you make any changes. For that matter, even if you intentionally ruin or compromise the program or data and the owner or custodian retrieves the original or simply repairs what you have done, it is of no consequence in the eyes of the criminal justice system. Moreover, damaging the physical computer, lap top, PC, tablet or smart phone, all computers, does not always mean you are altering or destroying data or a program. While other crimes may be applicable for damage to, for example, the physical hardware, such conduct would not necessarily violate this statute. Further, if you accidently or recklessly, as opposed to intentionally, alter or destroy a computer program or data, then the District Attorney prosecuting this crime should not be able to prove Fourth Degree Computer Tampering beyond a reasonable doubt.

Due to the countless nuances and definitions found in all degrees of New York Computer Tampering crimes and throughout New York’s cybercrime statutes, it is imperative to understand these terms to have a grasp on the statutes that criminalize certain behaviors. Not only can you save yourself from running afoul of the law, but if you are investigated or arrested for New York Penal Law 156.20, armed with a basic understanding of the law you can take a more active role in your defense alongside your criminal lawyer.

Remember, any crime, misdemeanor or felony, is life altering. When accused of a crime, no matter your guilt or innocence, the best and only defense is the experience, knowledge and advocacy of Saland Law’s New York criminal lawyers and former Manhattan prosecutors.

Call our New York cybercrime criminal attorneys at (212) 312–7129 or contact us online today.

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