Computer Crimes

Computer crimes have been increasing dramatically in Virginia over the years even though security has improved exponentially. Computer crimes are taken especially seriously and are prosecuted particularly harshly because of the extent of damage these types of crimes have on individual people, companies (from small to large), and the government. In Virginia and the District of Columbia, laws are in place to define these crimes and penalize persons convicted of them.

If you have been charged with a computer crime in the D.C./Virginia metro area, you need an experienced and aggressive computer crimes defense attorney. S.L. England has been upholding the rights of his clients charged with computer crimes over the years. He understands the laws and knows how prosecutors approach these crimes. Contact S.L. England, PLLC today to learn more about his approach to defending computer crimes and how he may be able to help you.


Computer crimes are really an umbrella for a range of crimes that can occur by means of a computer or the internet. At its core, these crimes involve an individual using a computer to access sensitive information without authorization and for the individual or entity’s own profit. The computer can be either or both the tool used to commit the crime or the target of the crime.

The Virginia Computer Crimes Act describes a number of these crimes, including:

  • computer fraud (§ 18.2-152.3)
  • transmission of unsolicited commercial e-mail (spam) (§ 18.2-152.3:1)
  • computer trespass (§ 18.2-152.4)
  • computer invasion of privacy (§ 18.2-152.5)
  • using a computer to gather identifying information (§ 18.2-152.5:1)
  • theft computer services (§ 18.2-152.6)
  • personal trespass by computer (§ 18.2-152.7)
  • harassment by computer (§ 18.2-152.7:1).

Computer crimes can also include sex crimes involving but not limited to:

  • revenge porn
  • internet sex crimes
  • child pornography
  • cyberstalking.

Computer crimes can also include fraud crimes involving but not limited to:

Penalties for computer crimes in Virginia and the District of Columbia will be dependent on the exact crime, the circumstances of the crimes, and the classification of the crime. Misdemeanors can result in up to one year in jail while felonies can result in up to 20 years, depending on aggravating circumstances. In addition to incarceration, convictions carry fines, restitution, probation, and other types of penalties.

Many computer crimes can carry federal charges as well. 


Computer crimes become federal computer crimes when there is an interstate element to the crime. The internet, however, is sufficiently linked to interstate commerce that it may alone satisfy federal jurisdiction requirements. Typically, federal computer crimes will be tried in the state and district where the crime was committed.

There are several federal laws that govern different types of computer crimes, but the primary statute is the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. This act defines the following federal computer offenses:

  • obtaining national security information (§ 1030(a)(1))
  • accessing a computer and obtaining information (§ 1030(a)(2))
  • trespassing in a government computer (§ 1030(a)(3))
  • accessing to defraud and obtain value (§ 1030(a)(4))
  • damaging a computer or information (§ 1030(a)(5))
  • trafficking in passwords (§ 1030(a)(6))
  • threatening to damage a computer (§ 1030(a)(7))
  • attempt and conspiracy (§ 1030(b)).

Federal charges under this statute can be either a misdemeanor or felony, though the latter is more common.

  • If convicted of a misdemeanor, you face up to one year in prison, but if there are aggravating circumstances, you face up to ten years in prison.
  • If convicted of a felony, you face up to five years in some cases and up to ten years in other cases while subsequent convictions carry up to 20 years in prison.

All convictions stand the chance of carrying steep fines and an order of restitution. Furthermore, property – like a computer – can be seized and forfeited, meaning you will likely never get that property back.


Defenses to computer crimes must be crafted specifically to the alleged offense and the nature and circumstances surrounding the allegations. Possible defenses include:

  • You were authorized to use the computer, the data, or other information obtained from the computer or had reasonable grounds to believe you were authorized.
  • You were authorized to access or destroy computer data or had reasonable grounds to believe you were authorized.
  • You were authorized to copy or reproduce data or software or had reasonable grounds to believe you were authorized.


There are countless ways a computer, computer system, or the internet can be used to commit a crime. If you have been charged with any criminal activity involving a computer, the stakes are high. You risk incarceration, fines, restitution, among other penalties, including civil action. Contact S.L. England online or at 202-489-0720 to start building your defense.

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