NYC Computer Crimes Attorney

Defending computer crimes, also known as cyber crimes requires not only mastering criminal defense skills but also deep understanding of complex technology and how it can be used and misused. Criminal defense attorneys at Joseph Potashnik and Associates PC have handled cyber crimes cases in state and federal courts in New York and around the country. Working together with the nation’s top digital forensic firms we deliver results in even the most complex cyber crimes matters.

What is Cybercrime

The term computer crimes or cyber crime is a general name for a wide range of computer related illegal activities. Although the term “computer crimes” is popular and suggests the use of computers, cyber crime is not limited to computers only. According to the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual, the term computer “means an electronic, magnetic, optical, electrochemical, or other high speed data processing device performing logical, arithmetic, or storage functions, and includes any data storage facility or communications facility directly related to or operating in conjunction with such device. In other words, using a cellphone for an illegal activity could subject one to criminal charges just as much as using a computer.

Some types of cyber crimes are simply old-fashioned white collar crimes such as fraud, theft, and embezzlement perpetrated with the help of computers. However, there are many specific technology-related crimes which appeared with growth of the Internet and the crimes that involve the use of computer or computer codes.

In the last several years the federal government has been relentlessly investigating and prosecuting cybercrimes. The FBI and the local US Attorneys are now staffed with specialist in computer technology, hacking, and coding.

Federal Computer Crimes

Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C. ß 1030

The main federal criminal statute is the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”), 18 U.S.C. ß 1030. The CFAA was initially created to prosecute hackers who stole information from computers but courts interpreted it to apply to other types of computer crimes. The CFAA makes the following a crime:

  • Unauthorized access of a computer
  • The transmission of computer code in order to damage a computer system;
  • The trafficking in passwords or similar information that would permit unauthorized access to a computer; and
  • The transmission of threats to damage or interfere with computer systems.

The section of the CFAA that criminalizes unauthorized accessing a computer applies to “protected computers”, which means a computer exclusively used by a financial institution or the United States Government, or used in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce or communication.

Computer-Related Extortion

The CFAA also makes it a crime to extort someone by threats involving damage to a computer or illegal access to a computer. This means making threats to damage someone’s computer system or network unless money is paid. In a way, this is very similar to old-fashioned racketeering only perpetrated by means of computes. Examples of such extortion cases involve former employees who threaten to sabotage their former employers’ computer systems or hackers who stole sensitive information and demanded ransom.

The CFAA also protects computers owned by “financial institutions,” which include any institutions holding FDIC-insured deposits, Federal Reserve banks, and registered broker-dealers. Bank employees who access the bank’s computer to steal data on customers to pass it on to others would be likely accused under the CFAA.

From the defense standpoint, when a person is accused of unauthorized access, we need to define what make computer access unauthorized. The cornerstone of the CFAA prosecution is that the defendant did not have the right to access the computer. Attacking that presumption is a very effective defense technique.

In many cases the employee was authorized in general to access the computer to perform certain functions but then the employee used the computer for something unrelated to work purposes. In these cases some courts can conclude that once the employee changed his intent of the purpose of his computer use, he lost his authorization. However, in some jurisdictions, the law states that so long as the user was authorized to access the computer as a general matter, his access was not “unauthorized” just because the purpose of accessing the computer has changed. You can actually have completely different interpretations of the law depending on which part of the country you are in.

Prosecution of Employees

Our computer crimes defense lawyers represented a number of employees and former employees accused by their employers of misusing work computers for profit or revenge. In jurisdictions that have broad interpretation of the meaning of “unauthorized” use, many types of regular business activities may be potentially criminal. If you are an employee accused of unauthorized use of a work computer, you need a attorney who understands the CFAA related case law.

Penalties for CFAA violations.

If you are convicted under the CFAA, you face stiff criminal penalties including prison time, restitution payments, money forfeiture, being unable to use the Internet while on supervised release. As in all other federal cases, sentencing for computer crimes is a complex issue and depends on numerous factors, which the court will consider.

Can You Be Deported For Computer Crimes?

The CFAA conviction may have collateral consequences for non-citizens. This means that if you are convicted for a crime under the CFAA and you are not a US citizen, you may be deported.

Fraud and financial crimes

Computer fraud is similar to other types of fraud, which involves making a false statement or misrepresentation of fact in order to cause loss or obtain some benefit. The difference is that the fraud is perpetrated by using a computer system. Examples of computer fraud would include unauthorized altering data or documents by using a computer system or network, altering or destroying output to hide unauthorized transactions. This happens in the general context of bank fraud, tax fraud, identity theft, hacking, and other crimes.

Other common examples of cyber fraud are Internet fraud scams such as telemarketing fraud, Nigerian letter fraud, Healthcare fraud, investment fraud, and credit card fraud.


Cyberterrorism is an act of terror perpetrated by a computer. Making threatening and terroristic communications online would be a good example. Another example of cyberterrorism is hacking conducted in order to cause fear, panic, or in perpetration of violent crimes.


While many types of speech are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution, the protection does not apply to all speech. Certain types of offensive speech disseminated by computer could be criminal. Harassment, making certain threats, cyber bullying and cyber stalking could result in criminal charges.

New York Computer Crimes

New York has computer crimes criminal statutes similar to the CFAA. In New York, computer crimes range from misdemeanors to felonies. Penalties for computer crimes in New range from a fine and up to one year in jail for a Class A misdemeanor such as unauthorized use of a computer up to computer tampering in the first degree, a Class C felony which carries 3 to 15 years in prison.

Hiring a Cyber Crime Defense lawyer

If you are charged with a computer crime, you need the help of an experienced computer crimes defense lawyer. You need a legal team of lawyers and digital forensic experts to navigate the complex maze of laws and evidence. You need professionals who will analyze this maze and find the way out. At Joseph Potashnik and Associates PC you will find such professionals. We have work with the nation’s leading digital forensic experts and we have years of experience handling even the most complicated matters. Call us today to discuss your case.

Here are some of our representative cases in the area of computer crimes.

  • Defended a software developer investigated for stealing proprietary software code from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  • Successfully represented a co-conspirator in an Internet based scheme that involved filing of fraudulent tax returns for more than $3 million
  • Defended an individual accused of accessing employer’s computer system and stealing sensitive information.
  • Represented a NYC employee charges with accessing the government database without access and without the employer’s authorization.
  • Currently represent an individual accused of making interstate threatening phone calls by using an email account.

If you need help, contact our office to discuss your case with a New York computer crimes attorney today. Call us at (212) 577 6677 to set up an immediate consultation.