Computer fraud is a serious allegation in Virginia. The Commonwealth of Virginia takes computer crimes very seriously and the prosecutor will do all in their power to convict you. While computer fraud methods get more advanced, so do the criminal investigations of the same. By the time you know you may be charged or have been charged with the offense of computer fraud, the state has likely already built a case against you and will continue to do so.
For this reason, it is critical to retain an experienced and smart computer crimes attorney. S.L. England understands how a computer fraud charge can change a person's life. It's not only the criminal penalties to fear but the collateral consequences that follow this type of criminal conviction – and these collateral consequences can follow you throughout life and beyond Virginia borders. Contact S.L. England to discuss your case and to get started on a strategic defense.
In the meantime, here's an overview of what constitutes computer fraud and what may be involved in any well-developed defense strategy.
How does Virginia define Computer Fraud?
Computer fraud is governed by Virginia Code § 18.2-152.3, which states that this crime occurs when a person uses a computer or computer network without authorization to:
- obtain property or services via false pretenses,
- embezzle property or money,
- commit larceny, or otherwise
- convert the property of another.
False pretenses occur when a person makes a material representation of past or present facts that the person knows to be false but uses the representation intentionally to defraud the alleged victim.
Embezzlement is the taking of property (e.g., goods or money) while in a position of trust for personal financial gain. This crime is an intentional crime.
Larceny is the legal term for theft. Simple larceny is theft of goods, money, or services in the amount less than $500 while grand larceny is theft valuing more than $500. This crime is an intentional crime.
Conversion occurs under similar situations like larceny and embezzlement but does not necessarily require intent in order to commit it. Typically, it refers to any unauthorized possession of another person's property that deprives the owner of the property use or enjoyment of it.
Proving Computer Fraud in Virginia
To note, a computer network is a broad term and can include more than a computer – it can include iPads, tablets, smartphones, among other tech equipment.
To prove this crime occurred, the prosecutor must prove:
- that you used a computer or computer network without authority; and also
- that you committed one of the above-listed criminal activities, meaning the elements of each of those crimes must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, too.
What are the penalties if convicted of Computer Fraud in Virginia?
- If the value of the property or services is less than $500, the crime is charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor and is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
- If the value of the property or services is more than $500, the crime is charged as a Class 5 felony and is punishable by one to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500.
Are there defenses to a charge of Computer Fraud in Virginia?
You are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Reasonable doubt about any one element of the crime is sufficient to deny the prosecutor a win and to result in an acquittal at trial.
As your criminal defense attorney, S.L. England will implement a defense strategy with the intention to create doubt. In these cases, too, intent is often required, and when that is absent, there is no crime. Further, the evidence is often spotty or altogether insufficient and, as such, your attorney may be able to get the charges dismissed or reduced before you go to trial.
The important thing to remember is this: you are innocent until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Getting a strong, viable defense is your best chance at an outcome best for you.
Contact a Smart, Strategic Computer Fraud Defense Lawyer in Virginia Today
Each computer fraud case is different; S.L. England will build a defense specific to your case. If you have been charged with computer fraud or another computer crime, do not hesitate to schedule a consultation with S.L. England by filling out an online form or calling us at (202) 489-0720.