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Computer Crimes

While the Texas Legislature created the first set of statutes dealing with computer crimes in 1985, these laws have been rewritten by the legislature several times since they were initially enacted. Although the laws as they currently exist still protect against the same conduct, they are considerably different from the laws that were originally enacted in 1985, and they continue to develop as computer technology changes and evolves. With the recent proliferation of the internet, e-mail, chat rooms, listservs, and other online forums, the number of criminal charges stemming from computer crimes will undoubtedly increase in the future.

Definition of Breach of Computer Security, or “Hacking,” in Collin County, Texas

In Texas, a person commits an offense if, with the intent to defraud or harm another or alter, damage, or delete property, the person knowingly accesses a computer, computer network, or computer system without the effective consent of the owner. The penalty for hacking in Texas ranges anywhere from a State Jail Felony all the way up to a 1st Degree Felony depending upon the dollar amount of damage involved, the ownership of the computer, computer network, or computer system, and what type of information is obtained.

Online Solicitation of a Minor

A person who is 17 years of age or older commits online solicitation of a minor if, with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person, the person, over the internet, by electronic mail or text message or other electronic message service or system, or through a commercial online service, intentionally communicates in a sexually explicit manner with a minor or distributes sexually explicit material to a minor. The statute defines a minor as any individual who represents himself or herself to be younger than 17 years of age or any individual who the actor believes to be younger than 17 years of age.

A person also commits an offense if the person, over the internet, by e-mail or text message or other electronic message service or system, knowingly solicits a minor to meet another person, including the actor, with the intent that the minor will engage in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse with the actor or another person. Furthermore, it is not a defense that the meeting did not occur, the actor did  not intend for the meeting to occur, or the actor was engaged in a fantasy at the time of the commission of the offense.

Online Impersonation

Online impersonation occurs when a person, without obtaining the other person’s consent and with intent to harm, defraud, intimidate, or threaten any person, uses the name or persona of another person to:

  1. create a web page on a commercial social networking site or other internet website; or
  2. post or send one or more messages on or through a commercial social networking site or other internet website, other than on or through an electronic mail program or message board program.
A person also commits online impersonation if the person sends an electronic mail, instant message, text message, or similar communication that references a name, domain address, phone number, or other item of identifying information belonging to any person:
  1. without obtaining the other person’s consent;
  2. with the intent to cause a recipient of the communication to reasonably believe that the other person authorized or transmitted the communication; and
  3. with the intent to harm or defraud any person.

Defending Computer Crimes in Collin County, Texas

If you are under investigation for a computer crime or have had charges filed against you, it is crucial that you consult with a criminal defense attorney to ensure that your legal rights are protected. Police officers are often untrained in the fine details of search and seizure laws when it comes to computer technology, and the State will relentlessly use its team of forensic computer experts, investigators, and other specialists to investigate, prosecute, and ultimately convict you.

Often times the State will attempt to charge you with a computer crime for conduct that does not fall squarely under any of the above-referenced crimes by broadening the scope of the statutes that govern these crimes. Also, in many situations, the State can only trace a crime to a particular internet connection or, at best, a particular computer. If the State cannot prove that the computer you use is the one involved in the crime and that you were the one operating it at the time the offense occurred, then they cannot prove that you committed a computer crime.

As a Collin County criminal defense attorney, Mark O’Bryan will fight to protect your constitutional rights. He will ensure that the State abides by the well-established search and seizure laws and is not attempting to convict you of a computer crime by expanding existing laws to govern behavior and prohibit conduct that the Texas Legislature had not originally intended to.