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Federal Internet Crimes

Houston Lawyer for Federal Sex Crimes

Alleged internet offenses (commonly referred to as “cybercrimes”) are often investigated by multiple agencies, and violations of federal laws can lead to alleged offenders facing federal charges. In most cases, demonstrating that a computer, cell phone, or mobile device was connected to the internet will satisfy the requirement of an alleged offense being “used in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce or communication” that establishes federal jurisdiction.

Being prosecuted in a federal court is far different from facing criminal charges in a state court. Prosecutors in these cases have many additional, deeper resources to work with and federal crimes typically carry much steeper sentences that include longer terms of incarceration and bigger fines.

Lawyer for Federal Internet Crimes in Houston, TX

If you believe that you may be under investigation or you were already arrested for an alleged federal offense, it is in your best interest to immediately retain legal counsel. Horak Law aggressively defends clients against federal charges in United States District Courts throughout the Southern District of Texas, including the Houston Division and the Galveston Division.

Houston criminal defense attorney Matt Horak fights to protect the rights of people all over Harris County and surrounding communities in Galveston County, Liberty County, Waller County, Brazoria County, Montgomery County, and Fort Bend County. Call our firm today locally at (713) 225-8000 or toll-free at (800) 225-8009 to schedule a free, confidential consultation that will let our lawyer review your case and help you understand all of your legal options.


Overview of Federal Internet Crimes in Harris County


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Federal Internet Crimes Under Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA)

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) (18 U.S. Code § 1030) was enacted as an amendment to the Counterfeit Access Device and Abuse Act and establishes crimes relating to unauthorized access to a “protected computer.” The CFAA defines a protected computer as being a computer “exclusively for the use of a financial institution or the United States Government, or any computer, when the conduct constituting the offense affects the computer's use by or for the financial institution or the Government” or “which is used in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce or communication, including a computer located outside the United States that is used in a manner that affects interstate or foreign commerce or communication of the United States.”

The latter definition essentially applies to all computers—including mobile phones—which is why many federal cases are prosecuted under this law. Specific criminal offenses under this law include the following violations:

  • Computer Espionage, 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(1) — First offenses are punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000 for individuals or $500,000 for organizations. Subsequent offenses are punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000 for individuals or $500,000 for organizations.
  • Obtaining Information by Unauthorized Computer Access, 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(2) — Offenses under this statute use a three their sentencing structure that depends on the specific violation and the alleged offender’s criminal history. Simple violations are punishable by up to one year in prison and/or a fine of up to $100,000 for individuals or $200,000 for organizations. Second tier violations are punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000 for individuals or $500,000 for organizations. Third tier violations (fore repeat offenders) are punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000 for individuals or $500,000 for organizations.
  • Trespassing in Government Cyberspace, 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(3) — First offenses are punishable by up to one year in prison and/or a fine of up to $100,000 for individuals or $200,000 for organizations. Subsequent offenses are punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000 for individuals or $500,000 for organizations.
  • Computer Fraud, 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(4) — First offenses are punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000 for individuals or $500,000 for organizations. Subsequent offenses are punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000 for individuals or $500,000 for organizations.
  • Causing Computer Damage, 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(5) — Offenses are punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000 for individuals or $500,000 for organizations.
  • Trafficking in Computer Access, 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(6) — First offenses are punishable by up to one year in prison and/or a fine of up to $100,000 for individuals or $200,000 for organizations. Subsequent offenses are punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000 for individuals or $500,000 for organizations.
  • Extortionate Threats, 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(7) — First offenses are punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000 for individuals or $500,000 for organizations. Subsequent offenses are punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000 for individuals or $500,000 for organizations.

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Federal Internet Crimes Under the Wiretap Act

“The Wiretap Act” (18 U.S. Code § 2511) became a more commonly prosecuted computer crime statute when Congress amended it in 1986 to include “electronic communications.” Wiretap Act violations are punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000 for individuals or $500,000 for organizations.

The Wiretap Act makes it a federal crime to:

  • intentionally intercept, endeavor to intercept, or procure any other person to intercept or endeavor to intercept, any wire, oral, or electronic communication;
  • intentionally use, endeavor to use, or procure any other person to use or endeavor to use any electronic, mechanical, or other device to intercept certain oral communications
  • intentionally disclose, or endeavor to disclose, to any other person the contents of any wire, oral, or electronic communication, knowing or having reason to know that the information was illegally obtained through the interception of a wire, oral, or electronic communication;
  • intentionally use, or endeavor to use, the contents of any wire, oral, or electronic communication, knowing or having reason to know that the information was illegally obtained through the interception of a wire, oral, or electronic communication; or
  • intentionally disclose, or endeavor to disclose, to any other person the contents of any wire, oral, or electronic communication, illegally intercepted, knowing or having reason to know that the information was obtained through the interception of such a communication in connection with a criminal investigation, having obtained or received the information in connection with a criminal investigation, and with intent to improperly obstruct, impede, or interfere with a duly authorized criminal investigation.

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Other Federal Internet Crimes in Texas

Federal prosecutors may pursue criminal charges under a number of other federal statutes. A few of the other common federal cybercrime offenses include, but are not limited to:

  • Identity Theft, 18 U.S. Code § 1028(a)(7) — Offenses are punishable by up to 15 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000 for individuals or $500,000 for organizations, although the sentences may be enhanced if an alleged offense was committed to facilitate a drug trafficking crime, a crime of violence, or an act of terrorism, or if the alleged offender was previously convicted of this offense.
  • Aggravated Identity Theft, 18 U.S. Code § 1028A — Offenses generally carry a flat mandatory two-year sentence of imprisonment or a flat mandatory five years for terrorism related offenses.
  • Access Device Fraud, 18 U.S. Code § 1029 — First offenses are punishable by up to 10 or 15 years in prison (depending on the specific statute violated) and/or a fine of up to $250,000. Subsequent offenses are punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000.
  • Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 (CAN-SPAM Act), 18 U.S. Code § 1037 — First offenses are punishable by up to one year in prison and/or a fine of up to $16,000 for each email violation. Subsequent offenses or offenses committed in furtherance of any federal or state felony are punishable by the same fines and/or up to five years in prison.
  • Wire Fraud, 18 U.S. Code § 1343 — Offenses are punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000 for individuals or $500,000 for organizations. Offenses that affect a financial institution or occur in relation to, or involve any benefit authorized, transported, transmitted, transferred, disbursed, or paid in connection with, a presidentially declared major disaster or emergency are punishable by up to 30 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $1 million.
  • Unlawful Access to Stored Communications, 18 U.S. Code § 2701 — First offenses not committed for a specified improper purpose are punishable by up to one year in prison and/or a fine of up to $100,000. First offenses committed for a specified improper purpose or subsequent offenses not committed for a specified improper purpose are punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000. Subsequent offenses committed for a specified improper purpose are punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000.

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Harris County Resources for Federal Internet Crimes

Cyber Crime | Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) — The FBI is the lead federal agency in the investigations of many alleged internet crimes. On this website, you can learn more about the agency’s key priorities, its related priorities, and how to protect your computer. The FBI has field offices all over the United States in addition to offices overseas, including an office in Houston.

FBI Houston Field Office
1 Justice Park Drive
Houston, TX 77292
(713) 693-5000

Cybercrime: An Overview of the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Statute and Related Federal Criminal Laws — The Congressional Research Service (CRS) provides policy and legal analysis to committees and members of the United States Congress. The CRS prepared this report for Congress examining the intent and consequences of the CFAA on October 14, 2014. It covers the penalties for violations of subsections of the CFAA and also addresses related laws.


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Horak Law | Houston Federal Internet Crimes Lawyer

Were you arrested or do you think that you could be under investigation in Texas for a federal cybercrime? You should contact Horak Law as soon as possible for help fighting to possibly get the criminal charges reduced or dismissed.

Matt Horak is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Houston aggressively defends clients throughout Missouri City, Pasadena, Sugar Land, Conroe, League City, Pearland, Richmond-Rosenberg, Spring, The Woodlands, Galveston, and many surrounding areas. You can take advantage of a free initial consultation that will let our lawyer provide an honest and evaluation of your case as soon as you call us locally at (713) 225-8000 or toll-free at (800) 225-8009 or complete an online contact form today.


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Our Office in The Woodlands
1790 Hughes Landing Blvd #400 The Woodlands, TX 77380 (281) 907-4990
Our Office in Houston
5300 Memorial Dr #750 A Houston, TX 77007 (713) 225-8000
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Matt Horak Matt Horak is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization since 2014