The Counterfeit Access Device and Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1984 (CFAA) was the first major piece of federal legislation defining cyber crimes. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) has also been applied in cases involving cyber crime. The CFAA and DMCA are by no means the limit on the government’s authority to prosecute cyber crime.
Not long after the CFAA was passed by Congress in 1984, the state of Texas followed suit by passing a computer crimes law in 1985. Title 7, Chapter 33 of the Texas Penal Code covers cyber crimes. Cyber crimes involving amounts over $1,500 are a felony in the state of Texas.
Cyber crime is a relatively new, and developing area of law. Due in part to the constant evolution of computer-related technology, legal precedent involving cyber crimes continues to unfold in courtrooms across the country. It is a lot for prosecutors, judges, and defense attorneys to keep up with since most other criminal law has long held legal precedents that guide the decisions of the judiciary. Defending people charged with cyber crime is therefore a very specialized area of legal practice.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of cyber crime is the ease in which a crime can be perpetrated by an individual unknowingly. Someone searching the internet for pornographic materials might open a file to discover that it actually contains both legal and illegal material. Similar situations can occur with peer-to-peer file sharing networks. The federal government operates websites and shares files for the express purpose of luring individuals into committing cyber crimes.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has created a Surveillance Self-Defense website that explains the legality of these types of government law enforcement actions. The information they provide can protect law abiding citizens from becoming unwitting cyber criminals. If you do have a run in with law enforcement, it is important to know your rights.
As computers and other electronic devices have become ubiquitous in society, cyber crime has risen to the point of becoming a priority among Local, State, and particularly Federal law enforcement officials. If you feel that you may be subject to scrutiny by law enforcement, if you face questioning, or are under arrest, contact the Law Office of Frank A. Perez at (214) 828-9911.