Unauthorized Use of a Computer: NY Penal Law 156.05

You shouldn’t need a computer crime attorney in New York State, or any criminal lawyer for that matter, to tell you if property is not yours, don’t touch it, take it, use it, manipulate it, etc. Simply, whenever you unlawfully access, use or withhold property you are asking for law enforcement – District Attorneys, NYPD, Westchester County Police, NY State Attorney General – to start poking around and investigating potentially criminal conduct. Merely because you do not physically remove or steal something does not mean you are free from prosecution. In fact, look no further than New York Penal Law 156.05, Unauthorized Use of a Computer.

NY Penal Law 156.05: Elements of Unauthorized Use of a Computer

Not a very convoluted statute nor one that requires you intentionally damage or alter computer data, for example, Unauthorized Use of a Computer is no less serious a crime. Pursuant to NY Penal Law 156.05, you are guilty of Unauthorized Use of a Computer when you take the first step of accessing a computer (it need not be a desk top or tablet, but any computer device) without the authority of the owner or rightful custodian. Not merely any computer, the computer you are accused of accessing must be protected in a manner to prevent unauthorized use without the consent of the owner. Such protection can come in the form of a retinal scan, passcode or password, or even a thumbprint.

Ignoring the initial reality that any criminal conviction is permanent and one that can upend your professional licensing, strip you of your legal status in the United States and have other long term and unintended consequences, do not lose sight of the fact PL 156.05 is a class “A” misdemeanor. Can you go to jail? Absolutely and for as long as one year. Probation and community service? Yes, those are options your sentencing judge will have as well. None of these outcomes are palatable.

Better Understanding Unauthorized Use of a Computer

An example of Unauthorized Use of a Computer might be as straight forward as where a you download or copy personal identification information of other people stored on a department store network. Although the computer is password protected, you manage to bypass the protection and get access to the system and the personal identifying information. Only one hypothetical, this scenario helps make an important point. While you violated NY PL 156.05 on the face of the allegations, if you committed this offense as described you likely would face additional and more serious crimes as well. Whether these crimes included more egregious NY Penal Law Article 156 Computer Crimes or those involving, for example, Identity Theft or Falsifying Business Records, what started off as misdemeanor conduct can elevate quite quickly to felony offenses with far greater penalties and criminal exposure.

Never forget that even if Unauthorized Use of a Computer is the only crime charged on a misdemeanor criminal court complaint or the NYPD only charges you with New York Penal Law 156.05 at the outset of their investigation through a NYC Desk Appearance Ticket, nothing prevents the District Attorney from adding new and more serious charges as they learn more about your alleged conduct. No, there is nothing you can do about what transpired in the past, but you can take the steps to protect yourself going forward.

When pleading guilty and accepting your fate is not an option, know that the criminal lawyers and former Manhattan prosecutors at Crotty Saland PC are ready to call upon their experience, knowledge and advocacy to put you on the right trajectory to identify and implement your best defense.

Call the New York computer crime attorneys and former prosecutors at (212) 312-7129 or contact us online today.

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