As our reliance on the internet has grown, so have internet crimes, or cybercrimes. Texas passed a law against computer crimes that forbids the use of computers, computer networks, and the internet to commit internet crimes in response to the rapidly evolving technological landscape. Given the increase in internet crimes, it’s essential to know what constitutes an internet crime, the most common types of internet crimes in Texas, the consequences of being involved in an internet crime, and whether you should retain legal counsel if you’ve been accused or charged with committing an internet crime in Texas.
What Are Internet Crimes?
Cybercrime, a category of crimes involving computers, computer networks, or computers as their target, includes internet crimes. Most cybercrimes are now regarded as internet crimes due to the internet’s rapid growth and use. Any crime or illegal activity committed on the internet, via the internet, or while using the internet is referred to as “internet crime,” which is an inclusive legal term. Internet crimes include everything from fraud and identity theft to cyberterrorism and cyberbullying.
What Are Some Common Internet Crimes in Texas?
In 2023, the most reported internet crime worldwide is phishing. However, Texas identifies five common types of internet crimes in its penal code:
Breach of Computer Safety
A person commits the offense of a breach of computer safety if the person knowingly accesses a computer, computer network, or computer system without the owner’s effective consent.
Online Solicitation of a Minor
This occurs when a person knowingly solicits a minor under the age of 17 via the internet, text message, or another electronic system to meet in person for the purpose of engaging in sexual behavior. Online solicitation of a minor also applies to any sexually explicit communication, including distributing sexually explicit materials.
Online impersonation happens when someone uses another person’s name, domain address, phone number, or another form of identifying information in an email, instant message, text message, or other similar communication without that person’s permission, with the intent to harm, defraud, intimidate, or threaten the recipient, and without that recipient’s knowledge.
Electronic Data Tampering
Intentionally altering computer data, tampering with data or online records, and introducing malicious code, such as ransomware, to defraud the victim is referred to as “electronic data tampering.” Ransomware locks out users until they pay a ransom in the form of money, credit, or other identifying information. Texas also prohibits intentionally interfering with an owner’s electronic access under this law.
Unlawful decryption also falls under electronic data tampering. Still, it’s specific to intentionally decrypting encrypted private information through deception, interrupting, or suspending access to a computer system or network without consent unless it’s for legitimate business purposes.
Although Texas identifies the five internet crimes above in its penal code, there are other types of internet crimes recognized federally, including:
- Tampering with an electronic voting machine.
- Fraud and financial crimes.
- Distribution of illicit drugs.
- Cyber terrorism.
- Cyber extortion.
- Cyber warfare.
- Obscene or offensive content.
- Online child pornography.
What Are the Consequences of Engaging in or Being Accused of Engaging in Internet Crimes in Texas?
Internet crimes may result in both criminal and civil penalties. If you’re found guilty of an internet crime, you could face fines, jail time, or both. You might still be subject to civil penalties, such as compensating the victim of your crime, even if you’re not found guilty.
For breach of computer safety, unlawful decryption, and electronic data tampering, you face a class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 180 days in a county jail or a fine of up to $2,000, unless:
- You have been convicted of this crime twice in the past.
- The government or a “critical infrastructure facility” owns the breached system.
- You intended to defraud the owner or damage the property.
If you meet any of the three criteria above, the crime could go up to a first-degree felony, punishable by life in prison, depending on how much money is stolen and how much damage is done to the network.
It’s a third-degree felony to solicit a minor online. It becomes a second-degree felony if the minor is under the age of 14. The penalty for third-degree felonies is up to 10 years in state prison. State prison sentences range from one to 20 years for second-degree felonies.
Online harassment is either charged as a class A misdemeanor or a third-degree felony, depending on the impersonator’s intentions.
Should You Hire a Lawyer to Assist You?
Yes, having legal representation is essential to uphold your rights and increase the likelihood that your case will be successful. If you have been accused of a crime related to the internet, you should contact a lawyer right away. Penalties for various computer crimes vary, and not all computer crimes are the same. If you’re found guilty of an online crime, you could receive jail time, fines, probation, and a criminal record.
With the assistance of an experienced attorney, you can better understand the accusations against you and build a strong defense. They can also represent you in court, work out plea agreements, and help you with the legal system.
The Law Office of Case J. Darwin Inc Will Defend Your Rights
Even if you have been detained or accused of a crime, the state may not be able to establish its case against you. Working with the knowledgeable and devoted staff at the Law Office of Case J. Darwin in San Marcos, Texas, will give you the best chance of protecting your rights. Our team has handled various criminal law cases, from violent crimes to DWIs, and we have over 20 years of legal experience. Our team also includes a former Texas state prosecutor.
The Law Office of Case J. Darwin Inc., which proudly serves the wonderful people of San Marcos, Texas, and the surrounding areas, will vigorously defend you. For a free case consultation, contact us at 512-738-6146 as soon as possible or complete our secure online form. Nosotros hablamos español.