It feels like ages ago that computers were a hot new invention, and the internet more exciting than addictive. Nowadays, many of us feel like we’re online 24/7. As computers have become more and more a part of the fabric of our everyday lives, criminal activity conducted using computers has grown as well.
Cyber crimes cost this country billions of dollars each year. In 2017, identity theft alone took $905 million from everyday Americans – and it’s far from the only online crime.
In this post, we’re going to explain what types of internet crimes Minnesota law enforcement officers are looking out for, and what kinds of charges and consequences you could be looking at depending on the specific actions you have been accused of committing.
By now, most people have a fairly clear understanding of this crime – or think they do. At the most basic level, it is the act of using someone’s personal information (name, social security numbers, bank account numbers) without their permission in order to commit any type of unlawful activity. Most identity theft crimes involve actual theft of the victim’s money.
Like theft, identity theft is penalized based on the value of the goods or property that the defender allegedly stole from the victim. Stealing less than $250 through identity theft may result in up to 90 days behind bars and up to $700 in fines. Stealing over $2,500 through identity theft may result in up to 10 years in prison and over $250,000 in fines.
Identity theft is also penalized based on the number of victims involved. Even if you only steal $10 from each person, five different victims can lead to penalties equal to stealing over $2,500 from a single person in the “traditional” manner.
Credit Card Fraud
Hackers may steal someone’s identity for a number of reasons. The most common crime committed with someone else’s identity is credit card fraud. Close to 17% of all cases of identity theft involve credit card fraud.
Any attempt to use a stolen credit, debit, or public benefits card, or to create a new one with stolen information, is a serious crime in Minnesota. Credit card fraud also covers the acts of:
- Selling or distributing a stolen credit card to others
- Telling a credit card owner that their card was stolen in an effort to steal from them
- Forging documents related to credit card transactions with the intent to steal
Like identity theft, credit card fraud is penalized based on the amount of goods or property that was stolen. If the offender stole between $250 and $2,500, they may face up to five years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
Penalties are increased if:
- Two or more credit cards were involved
- The defendant has a recent robbery, burglary, theft, or related fraud charge on their record
Not all computer crimes involve the theft of money or goods. Hackers may enter a computer system for a number of reasons – some of them even arguably noble – but they may still face prison time for the act.
Minnesota defines hacking as someone who “intentionally and without authorization attempts to or does penetrate a computer security system or electronic terminal.”
Penalties will differ based on the risk it presents to others. If the hacking presented low risks, they will only face penalties for a misdemeanor crime (up to 90 days in prison and fines of up to $1,000).
However, if the hacking presented a risk to public health and safety, the crime is a gross misdemeanor. Penalties for that include up to one year in prison and up to $3,000 in fines.
If the hacking created a “grave risk of causing the death of a person,” the crime becomes a felony, with penalties that include up to ten years in prison and up to $20,000 in fines.
It’s no secret that the internet has created a new, lucrative platform for the world of pornography. Unfortunately, not all of this pornography is created with adults. Prosecutors and judges offer little mercy for those accused of owning or distributing child pornography.
Defendants who are found guilty of possessing child pornography will face up to five years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines. (Penalties are doubled for repeat offenders.)
If the defendant distributed pornographic materials that involved minors, and knew the content of the material, they may face up to seven years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. Penalties are increased for repeat offenders or defendants who are already listed on Minnesota’s sex offender registry.
Other Internet Crimes in Minnesota
The four crimes listed above are just a few examples of internet crimes that put defendants behind bars for years. Other internet crimes include:
- Harassment and stalking
- Solicitation of a minor
- Conducting miscellaneous illegal business
If you have been accused, you need someone on your side who can help you create a strategy that will give you the best chance of walking away free. Start building an aggressive defense today for a brighter future tomorrow.
About the Author:
A former prosecutor and lifelong Minnesotan, Christian Peterson has handled hundreds of criminal cases from both sides of the aisle since he began practicing law in 2006, as well as a wide variety of family law matters. This background allows him to look at situations from all angles and anticipate which arguments the other side may use, increasing his clients’ chances of success. His work has been recognized by the American Society of Legal Advocates, the National Academy of Family Law Attorneys, and National Trial Lawyers, and he has a perfect 10/10 rating from Avvo.