Pennsylvania Computer Crime Laws
Pennsylvania’s computer crime laws prohibit many unauthorized activities related to computers, computer systems, and computer networks. As technology changes, state laws will continue to adapt as new offenses become possible.
Pennsylvania state law criminalizes intentional acts performed to create a denial of service or disruption of services through a computer, computer system, or computer network. State law also bars unauthorized interference with the transmission of data or information. A prosecutor may show that the defendant engaged in “hacking” activities to disrupt computer-related activities or deployed a computer virus. For each offense, the prosecutor must show that the defendant intentionally or knowingly participated in the unlawful act.
The state also bars any unauthorized interference with data contained on a computer, computer system, or computer network. A prosecutor may pursue criminal charges if the defendant accessed computer data without permission, altered existing data, or permanently deleted data.
Pennsylvania law also specifically prohibits the sale or distribution of computer software or computer programs designed and intended to disrupt or damage a computer, computer system, computer network, or website. Computer software used to facilitate unauthorized access to computer data or to disable a computer system may become the basis of criminal charges in Pennsylvania.
In addition, a state prosecutor may prosecute a defendant who uses another person’s computer or computer system, without authorization, with an intent to forge an email or fax communication or to falsify another type of electronic transmission through the Internet. This offense is generally a misdemeanor unless the defendant’s actions caused financial damages over an amount specified by Pennsylvania law.
The computer crimes defined by Pennsylvania statutes generally lead to charges as third degree felonies. State law permits a term of imprisonment for up to seven years upon conviction for a third degree felony.
In addition to a term of imprisonment, the potential punishment for a computer crime in Pennsylvania may also include restitution payable to the victims. Upon conviction, the defendant may need to repay the victim for the cost of repairs, lost profits, and the cost of data restoration.