Internet/Cyber Crimes

The proliferation of computers, computer technology, and the internet has led to a whole new class of criminal activity. Criminals are using digital technology to conduct all sorts of illegal activities, from fraud and theft to child pornography and human trafficking. In response, the California legislature has enacted a number of laws designed to protect individuals, businesses, and government agencies who legally access and utilize computers, the internet, and other digital technologies.

Cyber Crimes

California Cybercrimes

In California, you can be charged with a cybercrime if you have knowingly and without permission altered, damaged, deleted, destroyed, duplicated, or otherwise used any data, computer, computer system, or computer network with the intent to defraud, deceive or wrongfully control money, property, or data.

There are three main types of cyber fraud and theft in California:


Hacking is defined as knowingly accessing any computer, computer system, or network without permission. Examples of a hacking crime in California  include:

  • Loading software, viruses, worms, etc. onto someone else’s computer without their permission.
  • Breaking into a government or public safety computer system
  • Altering, deleting, duplicating, or taking data without permission
  • Using a service (such as someone else’s internet account) without permission


In California, phishing is a type of fraud in which a person knowingly tricks an e-mail or internet user (usually involving a false identity) to deceive a person into giving out personal information (such as a Social Security or credit card account number) that will be used for illegal purposes, including identity theft or credit card fraud.

Internet Fraud

There are a number of fraud schemes that involve the use of computers and the internet. Some of the more common types of internet fraud include:

  • Non-delivery of merchandise
  • Advance fee frauds
  • Auction frauds
  • Check to cash frauds
  • “Nigerian prince” and other types of e-mail frauds
  • Investment schemes
  • Prize sweepstakes or lottery scams
  • Work-at-home schemes

Penalties for Hacking, Phishing and Internet Fraud in California

In California, these types of offenses fall under the heading of property crimes. Depending on the violation, you could be charged with either a misdemeanor or felony offense. A misdemeanor charge for a cybercrime in California could get you up to one year in county jail and/or fines of up to $5,000 if you’re convicted. A felony conviction for a cybercrime could mean up to three years in prison and/or fines of up to $10,000.

Many of these offenses are federal crimes as well as state crimes. If you’ve been arrested on federal charges for say, identity theft, you could be facing up to 20 years in prison and/or be ordered to pay up to $500,000 in fines.

Internet Crimes Against Children in California

Internet crimes against children include using a computer or the internet to exchange, sell, or store child pornography. In California, child pornography is any material (including digital media) showing children under the age of eighteen engaging in sexual activity.

If you are arrested for child pornography, you could be facing misdemeanor or felony charges. A misdemeanor conviction for child pornography in Orange County, CA could cost you a year in county jail and fines of up to $2500. If you’re convicted of felony child pornography in Orange County, you could get eight years in state prison and be ordered to pay fines of up to $100,000. If convicted of either, you’ll probably be required to register as a sex offender in California.

Defenses Against Charges of Cybercrimes in California

If you’ve been charged with a cybercrime, especially child pornography, it’s important to take steps to protect your rights. A conviction for a cybercrime in California will remain on your permanent record and could make it difficult to get a job, start a business, or attend the school of your choice. In addition, you may be required to register as a sex offender for life.

Contact the law office of Orange County, CA digital crimes lawyer Jim Tanizaki without delay. Jim Tanizaki is a former Orange County DA turned criminal defense attorney. He knows the tactics the state will use to obtain their conviction in your case. In most instances. there are several defense strategies  that could be used to get the cybercrime charges against you reduced or even dropped:

  • You believed you were authorized to access the computer or network in question
  • You had no intent to defraud anyone
  • You loaded software or a virus onto a computer by mistake
  • You’re the victim of a crime – someone stole your identity and used it to commit the offense
  • Entrapment by law enforcement
  • Unreasonable or illegal search and seizure

Your family, friends, and co-workers have probably advised you to hire a criminal defense attorney to represent you. Take their advice!  No matter what crime you’ve been accused of, a conviction isn’t inevitable. Contact the law office of Jim Tanizaki using our website, or call us at (714) 655-7633 to schedule a free confidential initial consultation with a leading Orange County, CA cybercrime defense attorney.