With prosecutors seeking to protect proprietary and “secret scientific” information of financial, research, medical and other commercial institutions, it should come as no surprise to criminal defense lawyers regularly practicing in New York courts or those accused of crimes involving computers that Unauthorized Use of a Computer is potential crippling offense. The “lowest” of all New York’s computer crimes, Unauthorized Use of a Computer, an “A” misdemeanor pursuant to New York Penal Law 156.05, occurs when you knowingly use, cause to be used, or accesses a computer, computer service, or computer network without permission. Again, while NY PL 156.05 is not as significant as other New York computer crimes, it is likely one that if convicted would result in not merely your termination from your current employer (assuming it involved an employer-employee relationship), but would be a red flag on any future employment.
Defined in the New York Penal Law, computer service and network are critical terms to analyze in a Unauthorized Use of a Computer arrest. However, equally important is to these elements is whether or not your use of the computer was authorized. In People v. Klapper 2009NY032282 (Crim. Ct. New York County, Decided April 28, 2010), a Manhattan Criminal Court judge issued a surprising decision that puts into question what we all believe is the basis or foundation of permission and authority.