What Are Cyber Crimes and Are They Prevalent in Northwest Florida?

Cybercrimes are criminal offenses where the computer or other tech device, such as a smartphone, is the agent of the crime. These types of crimes include theft of personal data, fraud, copyright infringement, child pornography, cyber bullying, cyberstalking, selling fake pharmaceuticals and more.

Penalties and Sentences

In the state of Florida, a cybercrime is prosecuted as a third degree felony. Offenders face punishment of up to five years in prison along with a fine up to $5,000. The charge is increased to a second degree felony if the criminal offense disrupts governmental and public services or causes over $5,000 in damages. Florida state laws set a fine of up to $10,000 and incarceration up to 15 years for a second degree felony. If the cybercrime endangers human life, it is then a first degree felony with a $10,000 fine and a prison term of up to 30 years.

The County Sheriff’s Office and Other Initiatives to Fight Cybercrime

The County Sheriff’s Office Investigations Section is comprised of 18 investigators and 10 civilians who handle the investigations of crimes, including cyber crimes. Once a crime is reported, the follow-up investigation includes the collection of crime scene evidence. For Internet crimes against children (ICAC), an investigator works with an ICAC Task Force that is comprised of local law enforcement agencies, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigation and the FBI. In 2012, the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office worked with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Secret Service to investigate the computer hacking of personal information at Northwest Florida State College. There is also a Crime Analysis Unit which collects, analyzes and shares information with the appropriate outside agencies.

In 2007, the state’s CyberCrime Unit expanded from Tampa to an office in Northwest Florida. The goal of this expansion was to provide the needed resources to local authorities to investigate, arrest and prosecute Internet predators and child pornographers. The office includes law enforcement and victim advocates working side by side to battle the exploitation of children online and to educate the community about cyber safety. According to Attorney General McCollum, having the CyberCrime offices throughout the state underscores the ability of law enforcement to investigate and pursue cybercrimes quickly.

Cybercrime Defenses

While cybercrime violations often involve serious legal penalties, there are some good defenses to cybercrime, including authorization, lack of knowledge or coercion. It may be that the person charged with a cybercrime was actually authorized to access the information. It’s also not uncommon for a defendant to not knowing that they were engaging in a fraudulent scheme. And if someone was forced to commit a cybercrime under the threat of harm, this situation of coercion can be used as a valid defense. A good defense strategy can result in dismissal of charges, reduced charges or reduced sentencing.

Perhaps, someone at work reported you for using your computer for illegal downloads, hacking or some other type of cybercrime. Or, another scenario may be that you were downloading pornographic images but weren’t intending to download images of underage people. The charges that you face in these circumstances may not be fair or are trumped up.

If you’ve been charged with a cybercrime, it’s important to get experienced counsel, since the stakes are high. Like other criminal cases, the state or government must prove every element of their case beyond a reasonable doubt. A good, experienced cybercrime defense attorney will know all about technical evidence, such as memory forensics, system security, server administration and computer forensic imaging techniques.

Contact Destin Florida defense attorney John F. Greene. With 30 years of experience working with defendants in both state and federal courts Attorney Greene will review the facts of your case and, if there is a remedy for your legal issue, he will find it.

The law office of John F. Greene is located in the City of Destin and serves all those along the Emerald Coast, specifically the Destin, Crestview, DeFuniak Springs, Fort Walton Beach, Niceville and Panama City Beach. Contact John online or call 850-424-6833 to schedule a consultation.


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