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Computer Crimes in Florida

The proliferation of new technology has led to the integration of computer systems in most sectors of the marketplace through the creation of computer networks, greatly extending the reach of computer crime.

The Florida Legislature determined that while various forms of computer crime might possibly be the subject of criminal charges based on other provisions of Florida law, the legislature found it appropriate to create an additional statute which specifically proscribes various forms of computer abuse.

Under Florida Statutes, Title XLVI, Chapter 815 explains computer-related crimes. The act is also known as the “Florida Computer Crimes Act.”

Attorney for "Florida Computer Crimes Act" in Tampa, FL

In Florida, computer-related crime is a growing problem in government as well as in the private sector. The damages in these cases can be very high because the losses for each incident of a computer crime tends to be far greater than the losses associated with other types of white collar crimes.

Opportunities for computer-related crimes arise through the introduction of fraudulent records into a computer system, the unauthorized use of computer facilities, the alteration or destruction of computerized information or files, and the stealing of financial instruments, data, and other assets.


Definitions in Computer Crime Cases

Under Florida Statute 815.03(2), the term “computer” is defined as an internally programmed, automatic device that performs data processing.

The term “computer network” is defined as a system that provides a medium for communication between one or more computer systems or electronic devices, including communication with an input or output device such as a display terminal, printer, or other electronic equipment that is connected to the computer systems or electronic devices by physical or wireless telecommunication facilities.


Crimes against Intellection Property

Florida Statute Section 815.04 prohibits certain offenses involving intellectual property and provides for a public records exemption for certain types of intellectual property.

Any offense against intellectual property is a felony of the third degree, punishable by up to five years in Florida State Prison and a $5,000 fine. The crime can be charged as a felony in the second degree if the offense is committed for the purpose of devising or executing any scheme or artifice to defraud or to obtain any property.

Section one of the statute, prohibits a person from committing an offense against intellectual property by willfully, knowingly, and without authorization introducing a computer contaminant or modifying or rendering unavailable data, programs, or supporting documentation residing or existing internal or external to a computer, computer system, computer network, or electronic device.

Section two of the statute prohibits a person from committing an offense against intellectual property by willfully, knowingly, and without authorization destroying data, programs, or supporting documentation residing or existing internal or external to a computer, computer system, computer network, or electronic device.

Section four of the statute prohibits a person from committing an offense against intellectual property when the person who willfully, knowingly, and without authorization discloses or takes data, programs, or supporting documentation that is a trade secret as defined in s. 812.081 or is confidential as provided by law residing or existing internal or external to a computer, computer system, computer network, or electronic device.


Crimes Against Users of Computers and Computer Systems

Florida Statute Section 815.06(2) prohibits a person from committing an offense against users of computers, computer systems, computer networks, or electronic devices if he or she willfully, knowingly, and without authorization:

  • Accesses or causes to be accessed any computer, computer system, computer network, or electronic device with knowledge that such access is unauthorized;
  • Disrupts or denies or causes the denial of the ability to transmit data to or from an authorized user of a computer, computer system, computer network, or electronic device, which, in whole or in part, is owned by, under contract to, or operated for, on behalf of, or in conjunction with another;
  • Destroys, takes, injures, or damages equipment or supplies used or intended to be used in a computer, computer system, computer network, or electronic device;
  • Destroys, injures, or damages any computer, computer system, computer network, or electronic device;
  • Introduces any computer contaminant into any computer, computer system, computer network, or electronic device; or
  • Engages in audio or video surveillance of an individual by accessing any inherent feature or component of a computer, computer system, computer network, or electronic device, including accessing the data or information of a computer, computer system, computer network, or electronic device that is stored by a third party.

This computer crime is charged as a felony in the third degree punishable by up to five years in Florida State Prison. The offense can be charged as a second degree felony if the violation also:

  • Damages a computer, computer equipment or supplies, a computer system, or a computer network and the damage or loss is at least $5,000;
  • Commits the offense for the purpose of devising or executing any scheme or artifice to defraud or obtain property;
  • Interrupts or impairs a governmental operation or public communication, transportation, or supply of water, gas, or other public service; or
  • Intentionally interrupts the transmittal of data to or from, or gains unauthorized access to, a computer, computer system, computer network, or electronic device belonging to any mode of public or private transit, as defined in s. 341.031.

The offense can be charged as a felony of the first degree if the violation:

  • Endangers human life; or
  • Disrupts a computer, computer system, computer network, or electronic device that affects medical equipment used in the direct administration of medical care or treatment to a person.

Under section four, a person can be charged with a misdemeanor in the first degree if the person willfully, knowingly, and without authorization modifies equipment or supplies used or intended to be used in a computer, computer system, computer network, or electronic device.


Defenses to Computer Crimes

Section seven list several exceptions to these computer crime provisions including an exception for any person who:

  • Acts pursuant to a search warrant or to an exception to a search warrant authorized by law;
  • Acts within the scope of his or her lawful employment; or
  • Performs authorized security operations of a government or business.

Additional Resources

Florida Computer Crime Act - Find the penalties and punishments for a criminal violation of The Florida Computer Crime Act and Section 815.06, Florida Statutes. A violation of section 815.06, Florida Statutes, is punishable as a felony and any computer, computer system, computer network, computer software, or computer data owned by a violator which is used during the commission of any violation of section 815.06, Florida Statutes, is subject to forfeiture.