So You’ve Been Arrested For Computer Hacking: NY Penal Law Article 156 Cyber Crimes and Computer Hacking Offenses

Prosecutors don’t look to kindly upon computer hackers. Whether you are Anonymous, a kid in your parent’s office, a disgruntled employee, former worker stealing an employer’s proprietary code or algorithms as it relates to their business, or anything in between, there are a litany of crimes you could face in a New York State prosecution. Some of the most severe could land you in prison for many years while others may not carry the same level of punishment, but would likely decimate your future employment opportunities. This blog entry will address some of the New York hacking statutes (there is no formal penal code offense called “hacking”). For further information on these crimes, as well as the Federal Computer Crime and Cyber Crime statute of 18 United States Code 1030, go to where there is easily digestible information on these offenses.

As noted above, there is no statute in New York State called “Computer Hacking” at the time of this publication. However, certain conduct will violate various provisions of the New York Penal Law whether you commit an offense in New York City – Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn or the Bronx – or you commit the crime in Westchester County’s White Plains, Rockland County’s New City, Putnam County’s Mahopac or any other municipality in the State of New York. Again, the following is a brief listing of some of the crimes you could face, their general elements and potential sentences. More thorough information on these computer hacking type offenses are available at, this blog and upon a consultation with your New York Computer Crime attorney or criminal defense lawyer.

Computer Tampering (PL 156.20, PL 156.25, PL 156.26, PL 156.27) : If you access a computer network, computer service or computer and you intentionally alter or destroy computer data or a computer program, then you are guilty of an “A” misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. Many factors can increase the degree of the offense to an “E”, “D” or “C” felony punishable by State prison and sentences of up to fifteen years. What alters this computer hacking crime from a misdemeanor to a felony depends on different factors including whether you had the intent to commit a separate felony (Grand Larceny, for example) or you cause damage to the owner in an aggregate amount of $1,000, $3,000 or $50,000.

Unlawful Duplication of Computer Related Material (PL 156.29, PL 156.30): In the computer hacking realm, if you copy or replicate another person’s computer medical records with n o right to do so and you have the intent to commit a crime, you are guilty of the lesser “B” misdemeanor offense of Second Degree Unlawful Duplication of Computer Related Material. The felony crime of First Degree Unlawful Duplication of Computer Related Material occurs if without authorization you copy or duplicate any computer data or program and you deprive or appropriate from the owner of that material a value in excess of $2,500. Alternatively, you duplicate or copy any computer data or program during the commission of a felony. An “E” felony, this crime is punishable by up to four years in prison.

Computer Trespass (PL 156.10): Another felony, you can be convicted of Computer Trespass if you access or cause to be used a computer, computer service or computer network. Additionally, you must do so with the intent to commit of further a felony. A different subsection of PL 156.10 simply requires that you knowingly gain access to computer material. Like First Degree Unlawful Duplication of Computer Related Material, this crime can land you in prison for as long as four years.

Not the only computer crimes relating to hacking in New York, other offenses include misdemeanor Unauthorized Use of a Computer (PL 156.05) that merely requires that you use a computer or access the same without authorization and Criminal Possession of Computer Related Material (PL 156.35), an “E” felony. Further, depending on what you take or attempt to retrieve or duplicate, there are other offenses related to the theft of “secret scientific material” which often rears its head in the financial services and hedge fund world.

Hacking or not, computer related crimes are no longer the crimes of the future. They are here and now. Depending on what side of the crime you fall – prosecution or perpetration – you may be upset or happy that punishment for hacking type crimes involving computers in New York are relatively behind the times when compared to the Federal Government or even other non-violent offenses in New York. Certainly four, seven fifteen or even one year in prison or jail is significant, but punishment lags when compared to offenses involving other frauds and drug crimes. That being said, the police and District Attorney’s Offices throughout New York are well aware of this fact and are not shy in seeking significant sentences well north of the minimum. In other words…hacker beware.

To educate yourself on New York Computer Crimes and offenses tied to hacking activities in both New York and Federal Courts, follow the hyperlinks found above or go to the websites below and search the NewYorkCriminalLawyerBlog.Com.

Founded by two former Manhattan prosecutors, Saland Law PC is a New York criminal defense firm representing clients throughout the New York City and lower Hudson Valley region in computer offenses. One of our New York criminal lawyers, Jeremy Saland, was a founding member of what is now the Identity Theft and Cyber Bureau of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office when he was appointed by the Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau as member of the elite Identity Theft Major Case Section to investigate and prosecute Identity Theft and cyber related crimes.

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