Rhode Island Cyber Crimes Lawyer
Crimes Involving Computers for Harassment, Bullying & Child Pornography
The new frontier of computer crimes constitutes an ever-changing landscape. The law is constantly trying to catch up with new technologies and the manner in which they can be employed to commit otherwise common crimes. Most attorneys are not particularly tech-savvy, and since many defenses against computer crime charges have a technical base, they are at an extreme disadvantage in this arena. At The Law Offices of Stefanie A. Murphy, LLC our Rhode Island computer crimes attorney stays abreast of new developments, both legal and technical, in this burgeoning field. We also maintain a network of qualified technical experts to assist in your defense should the need present itself.
Computers allow transactions to occur across great distances with no physical contact or face-to-face meetings. They provide the ability to contact others without their permission, and to do so either with great fanfare (like retailer ads) or with total anonymity. Computer crimes can also invoke multiple jurisdictions embracing both state and federal charges.
Unfortunately, these characteristics make computers ideal for causing considerable mischief. Computers are now used to facilitate virtually any kind of financial fraud. They are also increasingly used to commit identity theft, harass other users, or distribute child pornography. These activities are now so common that the state has specific laws making them criminal acts. If you are facing any charges involving cyber crimes, our cyber crimes attorney can answer your questions- We are technically qualified and are licensed to practice law before both the state and federal bar.
State Computer Crimes Unit
One sign of the growing use of computers in criminal activity is that for more than a decade, the Rhode Island State Police have an operated Computer Crimes Unit (CCU). The CCU operates three distinct units:
- The Internet Crimes against Children Task Force consists of law enforcement officers from multiple agencies who investigate the exploitation and victimization of children via the internet and computers.
- The Computer Forensic Laboratory offers many kinds of services related to computer analysis and digital evidence.
- The Cyber Disruption Task Force consists of investigators with special training who support any computer and/or technological investigations.
Prosecutors have these facilities at their disposal in cases of computer facilitated crimes like cyber stalking, cyber harassment, child exploitation, and child pornography. Defendants have to count on their attorneys having the knowledge and resources necessary to counter that kind of state firepower.
Types of Cyber Crimes Defense
Someone Else Used the Computer
Regardless of the crime—stalking, pornography, etc.—one potential defense is that the defendant simply wasn’t the one who carried out the criminal activity. Even if forensic evidence says the activity was conducted via a computer in the defendant’s possession, that doesn’t necessarily mean it was the defendant who conducted it.
Modern day computer mischief includes many forms of viruses and hijacking programs by which someone can take control of your computer, often without you knowing it. Establishing that this happened requires a great deal of computer expertise.
Forensic Evidence Tracing Activity to Your Computer is Erroneous
Forensic investigations of computer usage are very technical, and experts are good at tracing activity through cyberspace using codes and identifiers that are a foreign language to most people. Despite the scientific basis of the investigations, they can still reach the wrong conclusion. In other words, simply because an expert says that a message was sent from your computer, or your account at some computer service, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true.
An experienced computer crime attorney knows where to find experts who can review the state’s evidence tracing the activity to your computer and rebut it the conclusion is shaky or, at the very least, highlight its weaknesses that leave open the possibility that the state’s conclusion is wrong.
Bullying, Stalking, Harassing
Apart from any school or workplace policies that address bullying and harassment, Rhode Island has specific laws that criminalize the use of computers to stalk and harass others. To be a violation, there must be communication or contact through computer or some other electronic device for the sole purpose of harassment.
Harassment is defined in broad, subjective terms:
- Knowing and willful.
- Course of conduct (requires that there be a series of acts committed over a period of time).
- That causes serious alarm, annoyance or bother (limited by the requirement that this would be the reaction of any “reasonable person”).
These are difficult elements for the prosecution to prove and offer an experienced Rhode Island criminal defense attorney many opportunities to damage or destroy the prosecution’s case. They also raise serious questions about the boundary between free speech and harassment.
A first violation is a misdemeanor, with a penalty of a fine up to $500, prison for up to a year, or both. Additional violations are felonies, with a penalty of up to two years in prison, a fine of up to $6,000, or both.
Cyber harassment and cyber stalking are also considered an act of domestic violence if committed against someone who meets the definition of a member of the defendant’s family or household. That subjects the defendant to many additional penalties imposed by the domestic violence law, as well as that law’s provisions for warrantless arrests and protective orders.
Rhode Island’s child pornography statute specifically makes it a crime to knowingly:
- Deliver or transfer child pornography by computer.
- Use a computer to reproduce child pornography.
- Possess child pornography in the form of a computer disk or file.
Penalties include fines up to $5,000, imprisonment (up to 15 years for delivery, transfer and reproduction; up to 5 years for possession), or both.
Contact an Experienced Rhode Island Internet Crimes Attorney
Child pornography charges can ruin your life. Stalking and harassment charges certainly won’t help your reputation or employability. If you are facing any of these computer-related charges, or expect that you soon will be, get the help of an experienced Rhode Island defense attorney who knows the special issues that crop up in computer crime cases, and has the contacts in the professional computer world to combat the state’s resources. Call the Rhode Island Law Offices of Stefanie A. Murphy today for an experienced, aggressive, and focused criminal defense lawyer.