The courts still struggle to deal with and understand crimes that involve computers, the internet, and digital technology, so if you are charged in Virginia with a computer crime – a “cyber crime” – you will need a Fairfax criminal defense attorney to advise and represent you.

In our digital age, almost anyone can accidentally commit a computer-related crime or be falsely accused of a computer-related misdemeanor or felony. If you’ll keep reading, you will learn about the issues that emerge when a cyber crime involves more than one state.

What happens, for instance, if a person in New York uses the internet to harass, defraud, or steal the intellectual property of someone who is in Virginia? Is the crime prosecuted in New York, in Virginia, or is it a federal crime?

What is Important to Know about Cyber Crimes?

What’s important to remember is this: If you’re charged with a cyber crime in northern Virginia, you must contact a good Virginia defense lawyer at once. The right criminal defense lawyer will review the charge, safeguard your rights, and fight aggressively for the justice that you deserve.

When a cyber crime involves individuals in more than one state, it usually means that federal law was violated and that suspects will be prosecuted in the federal criminal courts.

Which Federal Law Addresses Cyber Crimes?

When a cyber crime involves more than one state, it is usually charged as a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1984, a statute that Congress has updated and amended several times in the last thirty-six years.

If a suspect is charged with distributing or receiving child pornography, the penalties for a conviction can be severe. In any legal jurisdiction, a charge of child pornography is virtually always a felony charge, and convicted offenders usually serve time in a federal or state prison.

In northern Virginia, if you face a federal child pornography charge – or a federal charge for any cyber crime, it is essential for you to be represented by a knowledgeable Virginia criminal defense lawyer, and you must contact that lawyer immediately.

How Are State-Level Cyber Crimes Handled?

When a cyber crime violates the statutes of more than one state, but no federal charge is filed or no federal statute was violated, any state involved may prosecute the alleged offender or offenders. Real estate fraud provides an easy-to-understand example.

Suppose that someone in Virginia finds out about a residence on the rental market in North Carolina. Then that person posts the home on Craigslist as “for rent” and pretends to be the owner.

When prospective tenants contact this person about renting the home, they are told that when they make a deposit in a certain bank or PayPal account, this person will meet them at the residence with a lease agreement and the keys. Of course, if the deposit is sent, the money is lost.

The fraud in this case begins in Virginia, but the defrauded victims suffer losses in North Carolina. In this type of case, either state may pursue real estate fraud charges and prosecute the alleged perpetrator.

Almost Anyone Could Be Accused

Nevertheless, how a prosecutor handles any particular case will hinge on the extent and nature of the purported cyber crime, the laws of the states that are involved, and the prosecutor’s own discretion.

Cyber crimes are often detailed and complex, but being charged with a cyber crime doesn’t mean that you’ll be convicted. Without any criminal intent, you may have inadvertently seen a child pornography website by mistyping a URL address or clicking the wrong hyperlink.

The truth is that almost anyone could be charged with some kind of cyber crime because almost everybody has made mistakes online.

How Prevalent is Cyber Crime?

Moreover, if other people can access your personal or work computer, you could be charged with a crime that someone else committed, and that person doesn’t have to be in your home, school, or workplace. Computers can be accessed from across the street or the other side of the world.

The fact is that anyone who’s determined can easily learn how to access a computer, steal intellectual property or sensitive personal information, or frame someone else for a cyber crime.

While online child pornography cases grab the headlines, computers can be used to commit all types of crimes. Thieves, embezzlers, and con artists of every variety are online and looking for victims every day in every part of the world. Somewhere, right now, a cyber crime is in progress.

What Problems Do Cyber Crimes Pose for Law Enforcement?

Cyber crimes are usually hidden and are almost always complicated, so it is often difficult for law enforcement agencies to compile the evidence they need to file criminal charges.

However, if any law enforcement agency conducts an unwarranted, illegal search of your personal or work computer, a Virginia criminal defense attorney can file a motion to have any criminal charges against you dismissed.

What Are the Other Cyber Crimes You Should Know About?

What other cyber crimes are increasing in Virginia?

1. Identity theft is typically charged as a crime of fraud and is usually prosecuted at the state level. However, if you’re convicted for identity theft as a federal crime, you could be penalized with a fifteen-year prison term and fined $250,000.

2. Tax refund fraud happens when someone steals someone else’s Social Security information, files a fake return with the IRS, and claims a big refund. A tax refund fraud conviction may be penalized with a three-year federal prison term and a $250,000 fine.

3. Intellectual property theft is a federal offense, and it’s increasing every year. A conviction may be penalized with a ten-year federal prison term and a $2,500 fine.

4. Online harassment includes cyberstalking and cyberbullying. In Virginia, posting “nonconsensual” pornography online is a violation of state law and a misdemeanor punishable on conviction with a one-year jail term and a $2,500 fine.

Do Not Act as Your Own Attorney

If you’re charged with any cyber crime in the Fairfax area or anywhere else in Virginia, whether you are charged by state or federal authorities, don’t even consider trying to be your own lawyer or going it alone.

Too much will be at stake. Seek a good defense lawyer’s help promptly if you are accused of a cyber crime.

Even when the charge isn’t a felony, the cyber crime laws are exceedingly complex, and far too much will be at stake. The right Fairfax criminal defense attorney will get to the truth and will advocate aggressively and effectively for justice on your behalf.