Many businesses and educational institutions exist only in cyberspace, yet people accept them as they would if they had a traditional brick and mortar presence. The development of the Internet as an accepted and essential part of life for most Americans has come at a price as prosecutors and law enforcement attempt to keep pace with those who would use the new technologies to commit Internet or cybercrimes.
Types of Internet and Cyber Crimes
Criminal conduct involving the use of the Internet is often referred to as an Internet or cybercrime. Commonly committed Internet crimes may include:
Using the Internet to engage in misrepresentation or deception to entice another person to give up money or something of value has become the basis for many popular fraudulent schemes found on the Internet. Nigerian 419 scams have proliferated because of the anonymity offered by the Internet.
In a 419 scheme, the criminal conduct begins with an email to a potential victim asking for the person’s personal bank account information to assist in the movement of a large sum of money out of a foreign country. The victim is lured into the scheme with the promise of a large fee or commission in exchange for cooperating in the transaction. Victims who succumb to the temptation of easy riches soon find their bank accounts emptied.
Phishing is another popular Internet crime in which victims receive emails that appear to be from banks, legitimate businesses or government agencies. The email usually contains a warning that the victim’s account information with the purported sender of the email has been compromised in some manner. The scheme asks the assistance of the victim in an investigation into the matter and requests personal account information and passwords.
Chapters 16 and 32 of the Texas Penal Code make it a crime to use the Internet to engage in specific types of conduct such as fraud, the possession or distribution of child pornography and other unlawful conduct. Conduct involving the use of the Internet is usually a violation of federal as well as state law.
Punishment for Internet Crimes
Conviction of internet/cybercrimes in Texas is usually a felony punishable by:
- Community service
The severity of the sentence imposed by a judge usually depends upon the nature of the criminal conduct and the harm done to the victim.
Online Crime Defenses in Houston
Cybercrime prosecutions usually involve evidence obtained from a suspect’s computers seized by law enforcement agents during the investigation. Searches and the seizure of evidence are strictly controlled by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court decisions placing restrictions on law enforcement. A review of the facts of a particular case, including the circumstances surrounding the seizure of evidence, might lead to a defense strategy that raises Fourth Amendment challenges to the evidence offered by the prosecution.