Computer and Internet Crime:
As technology has advanced, so have technology-related laws. Specifically, states must regulate computer and internet conduct just as they regulate other types of conduct. In Illinois, computer and internet users should be aware of several crimes related to computers and the internet. Some of these crimes are felonies, whereas others are misdemeanors.
The Illinois Computer Fraud statute are found at 720 ILCS 5/17-50.
Under the law, a person commits Computer Fraud when he or she knowingly:
- Accesses—or causes another person or party to access—a computer (or any part thereof) or a program or data, with the intent of devising or executing any scheme to defraud, or as part of a deception;
- Obtains use of, damages, or destroys a computer (or any part thereof), or alters, deletes, or removes any program or data in connection with any scheme to defraud, or as part of a deception; or
- Accesses—or causes another person or party to access—a computer (or any part thereof) or a program or data, and obtains money or control over other property or services in connection with a scheme to defraud, or as part of a deception.
Accessing a computer with the intent to defraud is a Class 4 felony. Additionally, obtaining, damaging, or destroying any program/data in a computer in connection with a plan to defraud is a Class 3 felony. Finally, accessing a computer, program, or data and obtaining money in connection with a scheme to defraud is a Class 4 felony if the amount is less than $1,000.00, a Class 3 felony if the amount is between $1,000.00 and $50,000.00, and a Class 2 felony if the amount is over $50,000.00.
What constitutes Computer Tampering? Under Illinois law (720 ILCS 5/17-51), a person commits computer tampering when he knowingly and without authorization:
- Accesses—or causes another person or party to access—a computer, network, or program or data;
- Accesses—or causes another person or party to access—a computer, network, or program or data and obtains data or services;
- Inserts or tries to insert a program into a computer or program which will or may damage or destroy the computer or alter, delete, or remove a program or data or cause loss to the computer’s users;
- Accesses—or causes another person or party to access—a computer, network, or program or data and damages/destroys the computer or alters, deletes, or removes a program or data;
- Falsifies or forges email transmission information in connection with unsolicited bulk email; or
- Distributes software to falsify routing information.
It is important to note that the Computer Tampering statute covers computer hacking. Accessing a computer, network, or program or data without authority from the owner is a Class B misdemeanor. Falsifying e-mail transmission information is a Class B misdemeanor as well. However, from there all tampering conduct becomes a felony. Accessing and obtaining data or services is a Class 4 felony. Altering or deleting programs or data is a Class 3 felony. The first offense for inserting or trying to insert a program which will cause damage or destroy the computer is a Class 4 felony. However, a subsequent offense is a Class 3 felony.
Those who someone has injured with unsolicited bulk email may have a legal claim for relief. They could recover attorney’s fees and costs. Additionally, they could recover $10.00 per unsolicited bulk email, or $25,000.00 per day.
Aggravated Computer Tampering:
A person commits Aggravated Computer Tampering when he commits computer tampering and:
- Causes disruption or interference with State or local government operations; or
- Creates a strong probability of death or great bodily harm to one or more people.
Aggravated Computer Tampering which causes a disruption or interference is a Class 3 felony. Aggravated Computer Tampering which creates a strong probability of death/great bodily harm is a Class 2 felony. Put simply, the main difference in Computer Tampering and Aggravated Computer Tampering is the degree of seriousness and the harm which someone causes or potentially causes. The Illinois statute for Aggravated Computer Tampering is 720 ILCS 5/17-52.
Though the computer and internet are not the only platforms through which people can violate child pornography laws, they are arguably the most common at this day and age. The Child Pornography statute for Illinois (720 ILCS 5/11-20.1) is broad and envelops a large variety of conduct. But, as it relates to computers and the Internet, the gist of it is this—
A person commits Child Pornography who voluntarily:
- Films, videotapes, photographs or otherwise depicts by computer any child whom he knows or should know to be under age 18 engaged (actually or by simulation) in any sexual act;
- Reproduces, possesses, or shares any such material by computer;
- Solicits or coerces any child by computer;
Child Pornography is always a felony, though the class can vary based on the acts involved. The state charges most Child Pornography offenses as Class 1 felonies. A Class 1 felony is punishable by imprisonment from 4 to 15 years. The state charges some offenses as Class X, under which a 6 to 30-year sentence is possible. Sentencing ranges can also vary based upon past convictions and circumstances of the crime.
Non-consensual Dissemination of Private Sexual Images:
Often referred to by its slang term, “revenge porn,” 720 ILCS 5/11-23.5 prohibits the non-consensual sharing of private sexual images of an adult. In the age of technology, Illinois created a statute to address this rising problem. This crime is a Class 4 felony and covers dissemination of images/videos via computer.
Thus, if a person shares sexual images of an adult without that adult’s permission, he has committed “revenge porn,” or Non-consensual Dissemination of Private Sexual Images.
If you fear you may have violated the “revenge porn” statute by sharing images, it is important that you seek out a defense attorney who understands what constitutes internet and computer crimes and who can help with your case.