Gaining unauthorized access to a computer or network is on the books in Florida as a criminal offense. For those accused of this crime, it would probably be advantageous to take the charges seriously.
Like many white-collar or computer crimes, it is rare to face single charges of unauthorized access. Rather, there would probably be several alleged occurrences across a period of time. Each individual count of this or any other computer charge would probably have a basis in evidence collected by state investigators or the FBI in some cases.
As explained by the National Conference of State Legislatures, “hacking” and “cracking” are alternative terms for unauthorized access. In various states, the law might include any action of trespass, communication, data transaction or other interaction with computers that goes above and beyond a user’s allowed access level. Depending on the state, the law has slightly different definitions for these types of crimes.
One of the reasons that these charges are so serious is that there is often a good amount of information stored in technical logs. Additionally, an unauthorized access charge may also become an important part of prosecuting other crimes or of negotiating or litigating a civil suit.
In Florida, most of the relevant statutory law is in chapter 815, section 6, which defines offenses against computer users, systems, networks and devices. A valid charge would require three prerequisites:
- Knowledge of the action
- Lack of appropriate authorization
Therefore, some key defenses include that the defendant did not know what was happening, did not intentionally access the computer systems or had proper authorization. Investigators might also overstep their boundaries when collecting information, in some cases, leading to a possible civil-rights defense.
In summary, unauthorized access might not seem like a serious crime at first glance. Nevertheless, it deserves a strong defense. Primarily, it is severe enough to be a crime. Secondarily, certain complicating factors could potentially make such a charge a felony, it often provides support for other charges and it could be damaging in a civil suit — among other issues.