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Computer Tampering in the Second Degree: NY Penal Law 156.26

To a certain extent, when arrested for any alleged criminal conduct in New York you can always rationalize your predicament or how you found yourself thrust into the criminal justice system. Whether the evidence is overwhelming and compelling as to your guilt or you are completely innocent of all charges, the magnitude of what you face and the work you and your criminal lawyer have in front of you should not and cannot be overstated. When an arrest involves a violation of New York Penal Law Article 156, New York Computer Crimes, and more specifically the felony of Computer Tampering in the Second Degree, New York Penal Law 156.26, expect that the above description of your time, energy and efforts will be indicative of your actual and immediate future. Simply, should you not identify and implement the best defense to an arrest or indictment for Second Degree Computer Tampering irrespective of whether your case is pending in Manhattan’s Centre Street or Brooklyn’s Jay Street Courthouse, know that your exposure to incarceration on this class “D” felony is as great as seven years in prison.

NY Penal Law 156.25: Elements of Second Degree Computer Tampering

While not required nor mandated in any statute, Computer Tampering in the Second Degree is often alleged to have occurred in the corporate context as opposed to a familial or divorce situation where one party wrongfully accesses a computer and ultimately damages data contained therein. The reason why criminal lawyers versed in New York computer crime laws don’t frequently see this offense in the regular course of criminal representation is because the damage threshold to violate NY Penal Law 156.26 must exceed $3,000.00 and can be as great as $50,000.00. As such, while $3,000.00 or even $5,000.00 in damages to a computer program or data is not so far fetched in the personal arena, it is not likely that the “average” complainant has data on his or her computer valued in excess of $25,000.00 or $45,000.00.

Putting aside hypotheticals, there are two means to run afoul of Second Degree Computer Tampering. You are guilty of NY Penal Law 156.25(1) if you use a computer or an associated service or network and purposefully cause damage to the computer’s program or data in an amount that exceeds $3,000. Even if you do not cause any damage, NY Penal Law 156.26(2) allows for the District Attorney to pursue these felony charges under a different theory.

Though less frequently charged than the first subsection, NY Penal Law 156.26(2) criminalizes the unlawful and intentional accessing and damaging of computer materials that consists of medical history or treatment. Not merely nameless or unidentifiable medical information, but the information altered or destroyed must readily reflect and identify a particular person or persons. Moreover, as a result of your actions, the person identified in the medical records must actually suffer a legally defined “serious physical injury.” The last element of PL 156.26(2) requires that you must be aware that because of your alterations and disregard of a risk that is both substantial an unjustifiable, this type of injury may result.

Regardless of the subsection or theory of Second Degree Computer Tampering investigated or prosecuted by a District Attorney or the New York State Attorney General and irrespective of whether you find yourself before a judge of the criminal court in New York City, Westchester, Putnam, Rockland or Dutchess counties, do not lot lose track of your objective. That is, at all costs, within the bounds of the law, protecting your clean criminal history, keeping yourself free from imprisonment, maintaining your professional licensing from accounting and law to medical and finance, and securing your legal immigration status is paramount.

Don’t let fear, confusion and a lack of knowledge about a New York computer crime arrest or indictment compromise your future. When there is no substitute for advocacy, knowledge and experience, Saland Law’s criminal lawyers and former Manhattan prosecutors is your best defense.

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

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