Sometimes, people in Michigan and other cities nationwide get involved in a crime without even realizing that what they are doing is criminal. This is because computer and internet crimes can occur in a wide variety of circumstances. Understanding what constitutes a crime involving the use of computers and the internet can go a long ways toward avoiding legal troubles.
People in Michigan who receive emails or social media invitations to be part of a Secret Sister Gift Exchange might not realize that it is illegal. It involves an electronic chain letter that works in the same way as pyramid schemes, which are regarded as computer and internet crimes. How can such a proposal be recognized?
While it is true that one can remain anonymous online, anyone who misrepresents him- or herself might face criminal charges. In Michigan and elsewhere, misrepresentation with criminal intent could be regarded as computer and internet crimes. An example is someone who falsely claims to have the qualifications required for some fields like law and medicine. Practicing in professional fields without the necessary qualifications, giving advice and charging people for those services can lead to hefty fines and even time in prison.
Felony convictions bring penalties, and some are more severe than others are. Using a device such as a computer or a smartphone to commit crimes can lead to enhanced penalties. For that reason, anyone in Michigan who is being investigated for computer and internet crimes is best advised to seek legal counsel immediately.
In Michigan, there are penalties for every crime. However, when it comes to computer and internet crimes, there seem to be some gray areas. Cyberbullying, is typically defined as harassing or intimidating behavior on the internet, including posting threatening messages in a public forum. It is something that gives rise to concern. News headlines have reported several cases of children who committed suicide after they were the victims of such bullying.
In October 2013, California became the first state to pass a “revenge porn” law, which made the publication of sexually explicit photos or videos with the intent to threaten or blackmail another person a crime. Since then, a number of states have followed suit with varying versions of a revenge porn law.
There’s no question that cyber-bullying has become a national dilemma. There are countless stories of teens mounting personal attacks and creating mob-like agendas against other children. Indeed, bullying is nothing new, but the added dimension of being able to broadcast attacks has far-reaching implications. Because of how pervasive cyber-attacks can be (i.e. forcing children to change schools and sometimes leading to suicide) there are many who believe that such bullying should be considered a crime.
Prosecution of computer crimes is on the rise, given how so many more computers are connected via the Internet. Moreover, federal laws on computer crimes dating back to the 1980’s may not be able to deal with the type of actions and access that people have to computers today. Because of this, what may seem to be relatively benign actions may actually end up being prosecuted as crimes.
The U.S. Supreme Court has turned away two cases involving the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which makes accessing computers without authorization into a federal crime. That leaves the existing 9th Circuit court rulings in place despite concerns that the definition of "without authorization" has been interpreted far too narrowly.
It is no secret that law enforcement agencies now rely on social media as means of gathering information to charge individuals with crimes. But where do authorities draw the line between zealous investigations and privacy violations? Chances are that what they believe to be a “legal” search may violate an individual’s Fourth Amendment rights when it comes to searching private social media accounts.