As our social lives and businesses transition to a predominately online presence, we are confronted with more and more regulations and restrictions under which people can be prosecuted. The laws covering privacy and cyber crimes are still in their infancy, therefore, it is critical for attorneys to stay abreast of this rapidly evolving area of the law.
Cyber crimes are prosecuted on both the state and federal level. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) both have extensive resources to investigate cyber crimes and the evidence gathered may seem insurmountable. However, the government’s investigation should not go unchecked and you should hire an attorney who is prepared to thoroughly challenge the government’s case. Time is of the essence regarding cyber crimes, so contact our office if you believe you are being investigated or have already been arrested.Cyber Bullying
Cyber bullying involves the use of electronic devices such as cellphones, social media, and text messages to harass or threaten another person. Cyber bullying in schools is covered by Tennessee Code Annotated § 49-6-4502 and encompasses actions that take place both in school and off campus. Schools are required to have a policy regarding cyberbullying, with specific reporting guidelines and punishments.
Children are not the only class of people who bully others online, adult cyber bullying is just as prevalent. Adults, however, will be charged under Tennessee’s harassment and stalking statutes.
Harassment is distinguishable from stalking because harassment requires the individual to suffer emotional distress and must include a threat, whereas stalking only requires the individual to feel frightened, intimidated, or terrorized. Additionally, once you have been convicted of stalking it is a stackable crime; meaning a second stalking conviction will be increased to aggravated stalking. While stalking is a Class A misdemeanor with a maximum 11 month and 29 day sentence, aggravated stalking is a Class E Felony, which carries anywhere from 1 to 6 years in prison.Unlawful Photography
The law recognizes that people have a reasonable expectation of privacy in certain things, such as the home. This is why the police cannot enter the home without a warrant. The law extends the concept of the ‘reasonable expectation of privacy’ to your person and makes it unlawful to take a photograph of someone that would offend or embarrass an ordinary person or is taken for the purpose of sexual arousal for the photographer. An embarrassing photo means it would embarrass a reasonable person or it is a photograph of an area not ordinarily visible to the public. One example is someone taking a picture under a girl’s skirt as she walks up the stairs. Taking the unlawful photo is normally a Class A misdemeanor, but sending the photo to other people will increase the penalty to a Class E Felony.Computer Crimes
In 2003, the Tennessee Personal and Commercial Computer Act was enacted to handle the rise of computer crimes. The act identifies a number of violations involving a computer or computer network and the penalties include prison time, in addition to possible civil damages if the victim so chooses.
It is a crime to knowingly access a computer or computer network for the purpose of:
If the unauthorized access was for the purpose of stealing money, property, or services the penalty will depend on the amount stolen. For example, it is a Class A felony if the service or property is worth at least $250,000.
(a) obtaining money, property, or services through fraud;
(b) cause computer data to be false in order to obtain money, property, or services through fraudulent means; or
(c) altering or effecting an electronic financial transaction in order to disrupt, alter, misappropriate, or commit fraud.
Additionally, if you do not have authorization it is unlawful to:
While these are misdemeanor charges, the Act allows the person to sue for damages. The burden of proof in civil cases is much lower than that in criminal cases, so it is important to hire an attorney who is competent in this area and who is prepared to handle the criminal charges and civil lawsuit.
(a) access a computer or computer network;
(b) alter, destroy, or disrupt any computer or network;
(c) introduce malware or other malicious software;
(d) access a computer or network for the purpose of tampering with security devices; or
(e) create unauthorized copies of computer data or software.
Defending cyber crimes requires creative, innovative, and ambitious attorneys who are eager to challenge this growing body of law. With offices in Nashville and Sevierville, we eagerly serve the people of Tennessee.
Contact Baker Associates for a free consultation today.