Overview of Pennsylvania Computer Crime Laws
Pennsylvania’s computer crime laws prohibit many unauthorized activities related to computers, computer systems, and computer networks. As technology changes, state laws will continue to adapt as new offenses become possible.
Pennsylvania state law criminalizes intentional acts performed to create a denial of service or disruption of services through a computer, computer system, or computer network. State law also bars unauthorized interference with the transmission of data or information. A prosecutor may show that the defendant engaged in “hacking” activities to disrupt computer-related activities or deployed a computer virus. For each offense, the prosecutor must show that the defendant intentionally or knowingly participated in the unlawful act.
See Details on State Computer Crime Laws for a general overview.
The state also bars any unauthorized interference with data contained on a computer, computer system, or computer network. A prosecutor may pursue criminal charges if the defendant accessed computer data without permission, altered existing data, or permanently deleted data.
Pennsylvania law also specifically prohibits the sale or distribution of computer software or computer programs designed and intended to disrupt or damage a computer, computer system, computer network, or website. Computer software used to facilitate unauthorized access to computer data or to disable a computer system may become the basis of criminal charges in Pennsylvania.
In addition, a state prosecutor may prosecute a defendant who uses another person’s computer or computer system, without authorization, with an intent to forge an email or fax communication or to falsify another type of electronic transmission through the Internet. This offense is generally a misdemeanor unless the defendant’s actions caused financial damages over an amount specified by Pennsylvania law.
Penalties and Sentences
The computer crimes defined by Pennsylvania statutes generally lead to charges as third degree felonies. State law permits a term of imprisonment for up to seven years upon conviction for a third degree felony.
In addition to a term of imprisonment, the potential punishment for a computer crime in Pennsylvania may also include restitution payable to the victims. Upon conviction, the defendant may need to repay the victim for the cost of repairs, lost profits, and the cost of data restoration.
The following chart details Pennsylvania’s computer crimes laws.
|Code Section||18 Pa. Cons. Stat. sections 7601-7661|
|Defenses||Defenses to Computer Crime Charges
|Penalties||Third degree felony, see above|
|Possible Felony?||Yes, see above|
Note: State laws are constantly changing — please contact a Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Pennsylvania Criminal Laws Related Resources:
Don’t Go it Alone: Get Professional Help With Your Computer Crime Case
Computer crimes are the wave of the future. While the law is still developing on this topic, a conviction for a computer crimes-related offense can carry stiff penalties with lasting consequences. An experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney will know how to challenge the evidence and can brief you on your legal options.