There are various types of criminal activities that fall under the umbrella of “computer crimes” in Texas. Many people may be familiar with the term “hacking,” however, there are computer crimes that are even broader and cover a variety of topics. Computer crimes can be broad in range but basically involve any use of a computer or other technological machine or system like a computer to harm, defraud or threaten another person, or to solicit minors or breach security. Texas computer crimes laws are constantly changing to keep up with the fast pace of technology.
Related crimes include phishing scams and identity theft.
Texas Computer Crimes at a Glance
||Texas Penal Code § 33.01, et seq.
|Offenses Covered by the Computer Crimes Statute
- Knowingly accessing a computer, computer network or computer system without the consent of the owner;
- Knowingly soliciting a minor under the age of 17 over the internet, text message, or other electronic system, to meet in person for the purpose of engaging in sexual behavior with the defendant;
- Knowingly accessing a computer system, network, program, software or machine that is part of a voting system that uses direct recording electronic voting machines and tampers with the votes or the ability of someone to vote;
- Creating a web page or leaving messages on a social networking site using the persona of another without the person’s consent and with the intent to harm, defraud, intimidate or threaten someone; or
- Referencing the name, domain address, phone number or any other identifying information of a person without that person’s consent, intending to cause the recipient to think the message is truly coming from that person, with the intent to harm or defraud someone.
- For breach of computer security (i.e. gaining access to a computer without the consent of the owner), the charge may range from a “Class B” misdemeanor up to a first degree felony, depending on the value of money or property that the defendant benefitted from and/or was lost by the victim.
- For soliciting a minor, the crime will be charged as a third degree felony. However, if the minor is under 14 years of age, then it may be a second degree felony.
- For tampering with a voting machine, the penalty is a first degree felony.
- For online harassment, the charge is generally a third degree felony. However, if the crime was pretending to send an electronic message of any type from another person, hoping the recipient would believe that other person authorized this message, with the intent to harm or defraud, the defendant may instead be charged with a “Class A” misdemeanor. In the event, however, that this was intended to summon a response by emergency personnel, it will be elevated back to a third degree felony.
|Penalties and Sentences
- Class B misdemeanor: Up to 180 days in a county jail, fine of up to $2,000.
- Class A misdemeanor: Up to 1 year in jail, fine of up to $4,000.
- Third degree felony: 2 to 10 years in state prison, fine of up to $10,000.
- Second degree felony: 2 to 20 years in prison, fine of up to $10,000.
- First degree felony: 5 years to life in prison, fine of up to $10,000.
Note: State laws are constantly changing — please contact a Texas criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Charged With Computer Crime? Find an Attorney Today
The term “computer crime” covers a wide range of offenses that involve the use or manipulation of a computer, with a similarly wide range of penalties. If you are charged with such an offense, you will greatly benefit from the help of an attorney. Get started today by speaking with a Texas defense attorney.