A conviction of either a computer trespass or sex offense in Fairfax or Northern Virginia comes with harsh consequences that include life imprisonment and hefty fines. For sex crimes, being convicted may also come with long-lasting repercussions even after completing your sentence. For instance, you may be required to register as a sex offender, sometimes for life, and may have a permanent record on your criminal history. Additionally, there is social stigma accompanied with being guilty of any of these crimes. For criminal trespass, people won’t trust you around their businesses, while for a sex crime, you will be deemed dangerous to the community. This may negatively impact both your personal and professional relationships.
Luckily, you might be capable of avoiding a few or all of these consequences if you hire a skilled criminal trespass or sex crimes defense attorney. The lawyer may identify reliable strategies to contest the charges against you. Even when you believe you are guilty, mounting a solid defense may lead to the charges against you being lowered to a less severe crime or dismissed altogether. At Virginia Criminal Attorney, our skilled legal team will guide you throughout your case proceedings and assist you in fighting for the best possible results. This article focuses on the Virginia law on Criminal Computer trespass offense and the various sex crimes.
Computer Trespass Laws
Cybersecurity has become increasingly essential since businesses rely more on electronic data and computers to do their day to day operations. In case networks aren’t secure, financial and personal info might be exposed to hackers or any other person intending to commit invasion of privacy, identity theft, or other computer offenses.
The Computer Crimes Act of Virginia (Sections 18.2-152.1 to 18.2-152.15 of the Virginia Code) specifies various computer-related offenses, including computer trespass. Other crimes include computer fraud, harassment by computer, privacy invasion using a comp, personal trespass by use of a computer, theft of computer services, spamming (transmitting unsolicited emails), and encryption used to further the commission of the listed offenses.
There’s software available which records the keystrokes the moment a person logs into a computer on which it’s installed. Using this kind of software by individuals to collect information about someone else is unlawful in Virginia State as computer trespass. Under Virginia Code §18.2-152.4, this is a criminal offense punishable either as a felony or a misdemeanor.
Computer trespass also involves tampering with a computer or its network, or otherwise, the software that runs on it with malicious intent. It’s also illegal under this statute to install any software on a computer that allows you to disrupt or control a computer that is not yours unlawfully. Further, the law prohibits any individual from using a computer network or the machine itself, without authority, to create an illegal copy of computer data. “Without authority” means without permission, or in case you have a right to use the computer, you use it in a way exceeding such authorization or right.
Note that you will only be deemed to be guilty of computer trespass if you commit any of the acts code 18.2-152.4 mentions with malicious intentions. If your attorney can prove that you didn’t log into the victim’s computer with malicious intent, you won’t be convicted. For instance, it could be that when attempting to log into their account, you may have accidentally used the victim’s email since the login details were already saved in there. In this case, you didn’t know that you were logging in with the victim’s email address. Additionally, if you are the company’s owner, you could argue that you have the authorization to use any of the computers at your place of work.
Even though computer trespass is quite similar to computer fraud, it is different in various aspects. For one, it includes a lengthy list of computer-related wrongs like deleting files from a computer, causing the machine to malfunction, installing key-logger software with malicious intentions, etc. Also, computer trespass is majorly concerned with computer software and data, whereas computer fraud may involve any services or property. A computer trespass conviction also doesn’t require one to have the intent to steal property permanently. Temporarily taking the property will be adequate to substantiate the elements of a criminal trespass offense.
Computer trespass is charged as a Class 3 Misdemeanor or a Class 6 felony under Virginia law, depending on the damage caused, and it has severe penalties. You may be subjected to fines up to $100000, prison sentences not less than twenty years, probation, as well as a criminal record. And even though it is a criminal offense, the victim can also file a civil lawsuit where he/she may recover damages. Recoverable damages include lost profit. However, unlike under the Virginia business conspiracy law, the statute on computer crimes doesn’t provide for the compensation of attorney’s fees or treble damages.
Computer trespass is a complicated offense. Therefore, understanding its nature and the various possible legal defenses you can apply may prevent you from breaking the law without knowing it. Let’s look at the different defenses you can use if charged with this offense.
Legal Defenses to computer trespass include:
- You had a reason to believe you had the authority to log in or couldn’t have reasonably known you didn’t have the power to access the computer, its network, data, software, or program in question.
- You had a reason to believe that you had the right to destroy or alter the computer software, program, or data in question.
- You had reason to believe that you had the right to duplicate, copy, disclose, reproduce the computer program, data, software, or security system details in question.
- You did not have any malicious intent to commit the crime of which you are being accused
Also, note that the technologies the law enforcement agencies use in investigating computer trespass shouldn’t violate your rights under the Constitution of the United States. Searches & seizures should conform to the requirements of the Fourth Amendment. One of these requirements is that the government secures a search warrant that’s corroborated by probable cause before they can conduct a search and seize evidence.
Also, the decisions of the United States Supreme Court and the Fifth Amendment protect defendants during questioning by law enforcement. When proof and confessions or statements are obtained through means that violate protections of the constitution, our defense attorneys can contest them by filing motions to suppress as part of their defense strategy.
Sex crimes refer to any sexual activity committed against someone else without the consent of that person or against an individual who is incapable of legally consenting to the act. A person may be incapable of giving his/her consent due to their age, mental or physical disability, or impairment resulting from alcohol or drugs. In Virginia, these crimes range from felonies to misdemeanors. Anyone who doesn’t treat a sex offense charge seriously would be committing a huge mistake. You need an experienced attorney by your side to stand a chance of winning. Common sex crimes you could be prosecuted for include:
A prostitution offense can be prosecuted as either a felony or a misdemeanor under the law of Virginia State. The law prohibits performing or offering to perform sexual activities for money or an equivalent like drugs. If you are caught doing this, you will be charged with Class 1 misdemeanor prostitution. More severe felony charges might be filed for soliciting prostitution or participating in human trafficking. Misdemeanor convictions are punishable by a maximum of one year in jail and up to $2,500 in fines. Based on the felony charges, a conviction may lead to a fine not exceeding $100,000 and a maximum prison sentence of ten years.
- Sexual battery
We have several charges of sexual battery you can face in Virginia. These charges can be dependent on misunderstandings of consensual touching and other complicated facts. One of the charges you can face is a simple sexual battery. This is a Class 1 misdemeanor, committed when you intentionally touch someone else’s private parts or otherwise forcing them to touch another individual’s intimate parts by use of force or threats and against their will.
Another type of offense you can be charged with is an aggravated sexual battery. This is quite a severe crime compared to simple sexual battery. Aggravated sexual battery can be prosecuted in different ways; for instance, when a stepparent, parent, step-grandparent, or grandparent sexually abuses a minor who is between thirteen and eighteen years old. If convicted of a simple sexual battery, your punishment will include a jail sentence of up to one year and a maximum of $2500 in fines. Aggravated sexual battery, on the other hand, is a felony punishable by a maximum of twenty years in prison and a fine of up to $100000.
- Child pornography crimes
Child pornography is a federal crime and is treated aggressively since the victims in question are minors. For you to be found guilty of this offense, you must knowingly possess depictions of a child under the age of eighteen years old taking part in explicit sexual behavior. Distribution, production, and receipt of child pornography are more severe crimes punishable by extended minimum prison times.
There are different punishments you can face upon a conviction based on the crime and the minor’s age. For instance, convictions of distributing and receiving child pornography will lead to a mandatory prison sentence of at least five years. On the other hand, producing child pornography has a mandatory prison sentence of at least twenty-five years.
- Carnal knowledge with minors
This crime can include oral sex, sexual intercourse, sexual abuse via object penetration, or forcible sodomy. The defendant and the minor’s age play a key role in how the offense is charged. In case the child is aged between thirteen and fifteen years and gives his/her consent while the accused is also a child but three or more years older compared to supposed the victim, this offense will be charged as a Class 4 felony. If convicted, you will face a prison sentence of five years. But, in case the consenting child is less than three years younger compared to the accused, the crime will be treated as a Class 4 misdemeanor.
In case the offense takes place when the minor is confined or otherwise in juvenile detention, it will be considered a Class 6 felony. A crime like this can take place if the accused is a volunteer or employee of a probation service unit, detention home, correctional facility, or a similar organization.
A rape crime involves forcing another person to have sex against their will or when they cannot consent. Threats, force, intimidation, taking advantage of the physical or mental helplessness of the victim, or raping a minor below the age of thirteen years old have to be involved for a rape conviction to occur. Similar crimes to rape include date rape, statutory rape, object sexual penetration, and forcible sodomy. All of these offenses, including rape, are felonies whose sentences may range between five years and life imprisonment. In particular cases, the penalties may include a mandatory twenty years of a prison sentence.
- Infected sexual battery
Infected sexual battery is another form of sexual battery. This offense can be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the intentions of the defendant. Infected sexual battery occurs when a person, who, being aware that they’re infected with syphilis, hepatitis B, or HIV, has sexual/anal intercourse with another person intending to transmit that infection to them. Having the intent is what qualifies this crime to be a felony. In case it’s committed without the intention to infect another party, then it will be charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor.
- Attempted sexual offenses
An attempt to commit any sex crime, for example, sexual penetration using an object, forcible sodomy or rape is a Class 4 felony.
On the other hand, attempted aggravated sexual battery is charged as a Class 6 felony while attempted simple sexual battery is charged as a Class one misdemeanor.
- Computer solicitation of children
Soliciting minors through online platforms is prosecuted as a felony crime under the law of Virginia. This offense involves asking a child via online communication to meet and participate in sexual activities. Computer solicitation of children is a broader law, and even talking to a child in given forbidden ways could result in you getting arrested. Asking a minor to expose their sexual or genital parts, touch yours or another person’s genital parts, or engage in sexual acts are some of the actions than constitute computer solicitation. If you are found guilty of this offense, your punishment will include between five and thirty years of prison time and a maximum fine of $2, 500.
Registration as a Sex Offender in Virginia
Many of the sex offense convictions in Fairfax and Northern Virginia automatically require the defendant to register as a sex offender. Note that any member of the public can access a sex offender register. Therefore, once you register, details like where you live, what your charge was, your conviction, and the punishment you received will be in the public domain. Registration includes giving your name and photo. If you don’t register or update your details when necessary, you can be subjected to further criminal charges. Crimes that may lead to registration as a sex offender include:
- Sex trafficking
- Offenses of sexual violence- These crimes include:
- Abduction for wrongful purposes
- Carnal knowledge of a child aged thirteen or fourteen when the accused is older compared to the supposed victim with over five years
- Sexual conduct with a minor victim under thirteen years
- Forcible sodomy
- Sexual penetration using an object
- Sexual battery at the time when the accused is eighteen or above while the alleged victim is five or younger
- Taking indecent liberty with a child
- Aggravated sexual battery.
- Particular sex offenses convicted as second/subsequent crimes- If you had been convicted before of certain sexual conduct and are facing a second or subsequent conviction, you may be ordered to register as a sex offender. Crimes that warrant a sex offender registration upon a second or subsequent conviction include:
- Having sexual intercourse with a child aged thirteen or fourteen
- Having sex with a child when he/she is under your supervisory care
- Entering a residence with the intention to rape
- Child abduction for extortion purposes
- Sexual battery, sodomy
- Attempted sexual battery
- Possessing child pornography in case the victim in question is mentally or physically incapacitated or a minor.
- Misdemeanor sexual battery- In case you are facing a third conviction, you must register as a sex offender.
Several other offenses may require an individual to register as a sex offender. Consult your attorney to know if the crime you have been charged with may lead to registration upon conviction.
Legal Defenses to Virginia Sex Offenses
Various legal defenses may be used to fight against sex crime charges in Virginia. Your criminal defense attorney can evaluate the specific facts of your case then determine what defenses he/she can apply. Possible legal defenses include:
Consent- Several of the sex crimes in Virginia base on the alleged victim not giving his/her permission to the nature of the sexual activity. In case the alleged victim consented to the act, you might not have committed any crime. However, this defense might not apply to other situations like sex offenses involving incapacitated persons or minors.
No resistance- In Virginia, sex crimes don’t necessitate that the supposed victim cried out or physically resisted against the perpetrator for the offense to have taken place. However, if the victim did not oppose the sexual act, it may indicate that he/she consented. Or, it may show that the suspect reasonably believed the victim had agreed to the action.
Age- In case you were not aware of the age of the victim and had reason to believe the victim’s age was one that he/she was capable of consenting, your attorney can use this defense. For instance, if you met the alleged victim at an adult-only spot, for example, a bar, you can argue that you believed the individual was above the lawful consenting age.
False accusations- In other cases, a victim merely fabricates a story to do with a sex-related offense that didn’t happen. A victim may lie due to different reasons like having consensual sexual intercourse at a tender age against their parent’s values, feeling ashamed about cheating, trying to have the upper hand during a case of child custody, or seeking revenge after a hard breakup.
Misidentification- Certain allegations of sex crimes arise because the victim misidentifies the accused. A sex offense may have taken place, but the supposed victim may claim that another person, other than the actual defendant, did it. This is because the two individuals in question might sound or look alike. Also, in case the alleged victim was intoxicated with drugs or alcohol during the commission of the crime, he/she may easily forget what transpired.
False memory- For particular cases, a victim might have a falsified memory concerning a given sexual activity. If the victim undergoes therapy, he/she may recall a sexual encounter or an assault differently than how it occurred in reality.
Apart from these defenses, your attorney may be capable of having the proof against you suppressed by filing a motion to suppress. This is especially so if the police or prosecution violated your constitutional rights while obtaining the said proof or during the investigation.
Also, note that computer trespassing can be used to commit sex crimes like online solicitation of minors and child pornography. Therefore a person can be charged with and be convicted of both crimes.
Contact a Fairfax Sex Crime Attorney
Lawyers at Virginia Criminal Attorney have successfully defended clients in Fairfax and Northern Virginia against their criminal charges for a significant period and continue to do so. This has made them earn experience in the law to fight more complicated criminal charges like computer trespass and sex crimes. Our lawyers help create the most reliable legal defenses against any charges you’re facing. Also, they will aggressively challenge these charges and ensure they get you the best possible results for your case. If you are facing computer trespass or sex crime charges, don’t hesitate to contact us at 703-718-5533. We will provide a free initial consultation for you, where we will evaluate your case and devise ways we can help you beat the charges right away.