Have you Been Charged with Computer Trespass in Georgia?
Computer crimes, also known as cyber crimes, include many diverse offenses ranging from computer theft to phishing scams, to credit card fraud, and intellectual property violations. It can be difficult to ascertain the subtle differences between each crime, so it is important to hire a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney. The legal system is tough to navigate on your own and particularly challenging when the laws concerning a crime are vague. Contact our offices today to see how we can assist with your case.
What is Computer Trespass in Georgia?
Under O.C.G.A. §16-9-93(b), a person will be guilty of computer trespass when they use a computer or computer network with knowledge that such use is without authority with the intention of:
- Deleting or in any way removing, either temporarily or permanently, any computer program or data from a computer or computer network;
- Obstructing, interrupting, or in any way interfering with the use of a computer program or data; or
- Altering, damaging, or in any way causing the malfunction of a computer, computer network, or computer program, regardless of how long the alteration, damage, or malfunction persists.
O.C.G.A. §16-9-92(18) defines “without authority” to include the use of a computer or computer network in a manner that exceeds any right or permission granted by the owner of the computer or computer network.
Georgia Case Law
An independent contractor committed computer trespass and was convicted in Ware v. Am. Recovery Solution Servs. 324 Ga. App. 187, (2013). The independent contractor worked for a collection agency. He developed software that allowed the employees to access the company's database. However, the independent contractor used the login and password of their CFO and disabled the login. This resulted in the collection agency being shut down and hampered its ability to operate for a significant length of time. The CFO testified that he had not given the contractor permission to disable the login or alter the program. The contractor argued that he did not access the server without authority because he owned the software. However, the court deemed this information irrelevant to whether he committed computer trespass. The Court found that the independent contractor committed computer trespass because he did not have the authority to disable the login. Therefore, he was found guilty of computer trespass.
Penalty for Computer Trespass in Georgia
A person convicted of computer trespass in Georgia will receive a fine up to $50,000, up to 15 years in prison, or both.
However, if a person or property was injured because of the computer trespass, the victim may sue to recover any damages sustained and the cost of the lawsuit. Damages can include loss of profits and any expense the victim had to pay because of the trespass. However, the amount of restitution ordered cannot exceed the damage done to the victim.
Lack of evidence: Without evidence that the accused used a network without authority, then they cannot be guilty of computer trespass.
Consent: Consent of the owner of the computer or computer network to alter, delete, obstruct, or remove a computer program or data will be beneficial to your case. Evidence that shows consent will negate the elements required to obtain a computer trespass conviction.
Unaware that I did not have authority: A reasonable belief that you had the power to delete, remove, alter, or obstruct a computer program or data could be an acceptable defense to the crime of computer trespass. However, it would be beneficial to have a Georgia Computer Crime Attorney assist you in presenting this argument.
What are Not Defenses
Accident: Even if the altering or removing of property or data was accidental, evidence that you used a computer or network knowing that you did not have authority would be sufficient to obtain a conviction.
It was only a temporary thing: The interference does not have to be permanent, even if it were just temporary, the accused would still be guilty of computer trespass.
I was an authorized user: A person can have access to a program but still be guilty of computer trespass if they use the computer or network to do something without authority to do so.
Computer crimes can be highly technical and difficult to understand on your own. That is why Lawson and Berry are here to help. Our team of Georgia Computer Crime Attorneys has over 50 years of criminal defense experience and is ready to assist you with your case today. Call us today.