Section 33.03 of the Texas Penal Code covers the breach of computer security — generally known as hacking. That law makes it a crime for someone to knowingly access a computer, computer network, or computer system without the effective consent of the owner.
As you can tell by reading the language above, this is an extremely broad law with tons of different of applications that can apply to many different circumstances. It can cover situations where a hacker is trying to access a bank, the government, or even arguably someone else’s facebook account. It plainly prohibits a person simply getting on someone else’s computer without their knowing — and it would probably prohibit an employee from accessing a computer system of their employer where they have exceeded access although there are other laws that cover that particular scenario.
If the offense is committed without the person obtaining any benefit, then it’s a class b misdemeanor which is the equivalent of a drunk driving charge or possession of a usable quantity of marijuana but less than two ounces.
If the alleged offense attains a benefit, defrauds or harms another, alters, damages, or deletes property, then the offense is charged based on the dollar amount of damages done.
$1,500 or less is a class a misdemeanor, the equivalent of assault charges;
$1,500 to $20,000 is a state jail felony;
$20,000 to $100,000 is a third degree felony;
$100,000 to $200,000 is a second degree felony, the equivalent of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon;
over $200,000 is a first degree felony, the equivalent of murder or aggravated sexual assault of a child.
Punishment for breach of computer security can be extremely steep!! I’m not an expert in corporate computer systems, by my gut tells me their damages add up QUICKLY in the event someone accesses or deletes their files.
There are tons of legal issues which pertain to proving this type of offense including but not limited to search and seizure issues and highly complex evidentiary issues that accompany computer crimes. This is the type of offense that typically drive prosecutors crazy — because they can be highly technical and very difficult to prove. A good lawyer can create a lot of value by working diligently on your case!
If you’re charged with a computer crime, then getting a competent and qualified lawyer is a must!
Jeremy F. Rosenthal, Esq.
Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice about you own specific situation, you should consult an attorney.