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What is computer invasion of privacy?

Many Virginia residents might think criminal charges in the Commonwealth can only come about from theft, violence, destruction of property and other obviously illegal behaviors. However, a newly prominent criminal act that can lead to penalties that are as serious or worse are computer offenses. Everyone has heard about hacking into another person's computer, but few realize exactly how severe the penalties are in the criminal justice system for these types of computer invasion of privacy charges.

If a person uses a computer or a network and examines information of another person, including their salary, credit or financial information, it is a computer invasion of privacy. When the term "examine" is used, the person accused must have reviewed the information after he or she should have been aware that there is no legal authority to do so. If there is an arrest for this charge, it will be a Class 1 misdemeanor. A conviction will result in jail for up to one year, a fine of up to $2,500 or both.

For people who already have a conviction on their record for computer invasion of privacy or other similar laws of the Commonwealth or another state in the U.S., it will be a Class 6 felony. For those who accrue this information and sell it to another person or entity, it is a Class 6 felony. If it happens while the person is committing another crime, it will also be a Class 6 felony. A conviction for a Class 6 felony will result in a prison sentence of one to five years. The jury or judge can sentence the person to the same penalties as a Class 1 misdemeanor at their discretion.

If a person is collecting the information as part of computer security, service, business or repair, then this law does not apply. When charged with computer crimes, it can be confusing, as many are not aware that the allegations are of sufficient severity that there can be such harsh penalties. A strong criminal defense against while collar crimes is just as important as it is for other, more commonly understood allegations.

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