Having the FBI knocking on your door at 6 in the morning can be the most frightening experience in your life. They enter, start searching through your most personal belongings, take your papers, records, phone and computers and leave. This is what happened to one of Saland Law’s recent clients (we’ll call him “Dave” – not his real name). He reached out to us a short time afterwards, when we put our experience and knowledge to work. After some initial investigation, we discovered that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York was investigating an international computer hacking ring and that they believed Dave was involved. They initially intended on charging Dave with the serious felony of Computer Hacking under Title 18, United States Code, Section 1030(a)(i), which carries a potential sentence of 10 years in federal prison.
After a diligent and thorough examination of the evidence and Dave’s background, it became clear that Dave was not an international computer hacker. Rather, Dave was a down on his luck twenty-something, who had a troubled past. Dave had a difficult upbringing, growing up in a violence-filled household, child welfare agents constantly around. Dave witnessed abuse of his mother by his father and his sister’s suicide attempt. Dave sunk into deep depression. He spent more and more time and energy on the computer, eventually suffering an addiction to computer gaming and usage. Dave hit rock bottom when he wandered onto a website that promoted computer hacking – it described how to do it, and sold software that enabled the hacking. In a weak moment, Dave purchased the software and began to use it to look at other’s computer files, including his girlfriends. Dave wasn’t proud of his conduct, but because of his addiction, he couldn’t help himself. Dave didn’t try to steal credit card information, or his victim’s identification. Rather, he was only falling deeper into his computer addiction. Continue reading