Assume Betty works for a company in Utah, and she gets fired. Weeks later Betty, who is angry at her former boss, still has passwords to emails, bank accounts, and the company’s Facebook account. Betty decides since she has the passwords, she will peruse those accounts to see how her old company is doing, and hopefully to find dirt on them. If Betty gets caught, she can be sent to prison for a very long time. It does not matter that Betty came about the the passwords legally.
In Utah, computer crimes involving accessing and/or stealing digital information carry a more severe punishment than other crimes of trespass and theft because they are “difficult to detect,” and because such crimes can have disastrous effects for the victims (who often have to notify thousands of their customers for the breach of security). The United States federal laws on this are also very severe, and they are found in the Stored Communications Act, and the Wiretap Act. In fact, simply accessing somebody’s online account by itself without their permission can land you in federal prison. That means if you sit in front of a computer that’s been used by another, and discover their Facebook page is open, you’d be very wise not to “access” ANY of that person’s information. If you choose to, you can also be sued for invading their privacy, too, and the jury award may easily be in excess of $200,000!
The Utah judiciary has stated stated the penalties for such crimes can legally be very severe because they “has historically been recognized as furthering the legitimate purpose of deterring a type of theft easy to commit and difficult to detect.”
Here is what part of § 76-6-703 of the Utah Code says: “A person who without authorization gains or attempts to gain access to and alters, damages, destroys, discloses, or modifies any computer, computer network, computer property, computer system, computer program, computer data or software, and thereby causes damage to another, or obtains money, property, information, or a benefit for any person without legal right, is guilty of (a) a class B misdemeanor [if] the damage caused or the value of the money, property, or benefit obtained or sought to be obtained is less than $500; or the information obtained is not confidential; (b) a class A misdemeanor when the damage caused or the value of the money, property, or benefit obtained or sought to be obtained is or exceeds $500 but is less than $1,500; (c) a third degree felony when the damage caused or the value of the money, property, or benefit obtained or sought to be obtained is or exceeds $1,500 but is less than $5,000; (d) a second degree felony when the damage caused or the value of the money, property, or benefit obtained or sought to be obtained is or exceeds $5,000; or (e) a third degree felony when . . . (iii) the information obtained is confidential . . . . [Also, if a person] knowingly allows another person to use any computer, computer network, computer property, or computer system, program, or software to devise or execute any artifice or scheme to defraud or to obtain money, property, services, or other things of value by false pretenses, promises, or representations, is guilty of an offense based on the value of the money, property, services, or things of value, in the degree set forth in Subsection 76-10-1801(1).”
Again, the federal statutes are even tougher.
These crimes are very serious. If you have been charged with a computer crime in Utah, contact Greg Smith and Associates immediately, so that your rights are protected.
[This information was current on January 24, 2015]