Unauthorized Computer Access and Fraud
California Penal Code 502 PC

California's unauthorized computer access law, Penal Code 502(c) PC, is an important California internet fraud law.

Also known as the “Comprehensive Computer Data Access and Fraud Act,” this law makes it a serious crime to access a computer, computer data, or a computer network without permission (and usually with an unlawful purpose).1

Unlike with many other forms of California fraud, you can be guilty of unauthorized access to a computer even if you don't actually defraud anyone out of money or property.

Examples

Here are several examples of people whose behavior might violate California's unauthorized computer access and fraud law:

  • A college student “hacks” into the digital records of his school's registrar and erases all of the past semester's grades.
  • An employee of a company steals the human resources manager's password and enters the company's payroll system without permission, changing the settings so that his paycheck will double.
  • Several friends write and disseminate a computer virus that spreads around the country.

Penalties

The penalties for PC 502(c) cybercrime vary depending on the specific section of the law a defendant is alleged to have violated.

computer-keyboard
Different forms of unauthorized computer access carry different penalties.

The more serious forms of unauthorized computer access are California wobblers—which means that they may be charged as either misdemeanors or felonies in California law, depending on the circumstances.2

Misdemeanor penalties for accessing a computer without authorization are usually a county jail sentence of up to one (1) year, and/or a fine of up to five thousand dollars ($5,000).3

Unauthorized computer access as a felony usually carries a sentence of sixteen (16) months, two (2) years or three (3) years, and/or a fine of up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000).4

Legal defenses

The harsh penalties for unauthorized computer access demonstrate California lawmakers' commitment to cracking down on cybercrime in a time when a striking amount of economic activity takes place online and computer storage of data is the norm.

But this law ensnares large numbers of people who have done nothing wrong or lack any real criminal intent. Because the concept of cybercrime is new, many PC 502(c) defendants had no idea that what they were doing was illegal.

If you are unjustly charged with unauthorized computer access, the following common legal defenses might be helpful:

  • You were wrongly accused; and/or
  • You did not act knowingly.

In this article, our California criminal defense attorneys explain the following:

1. Unauthorized Computer Access: Legal Definition and Penalties

1.1. Unauthorized access; assisting with unauthorized access

1.2. Altering, deleting or taking data

1.3. Disrupting or denying computer services

1.4. Using computer services without permission

1.5. Introducing computer contaminants

1.6. Using someone else's domain name or profile

1.7. Unauthorized access to government or public safety computer systems

1.8. Additional penalties

2. Scope of Employment Exception to California Penal Code 502(c)

3. Legal Defenses to Charges of Illegal Computer Access

4. PC 502(c) and Related Offenses

4.1. Identity theft

4.2. Credit card fraud

4.3. Grand theft/petty theft

If, after reading this article, you would like more information, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.

1. Unauthorized Computer Access: Legal Definition and Penalties

California Penal Code 502, subsection (c), is a complex law covering a variety of forms of unauthorized computer access. This law also provides for different penalties depending on what section of the unauthorized access statute you are alleged to have violated.5

man-working-at-computer
Different sections of Penal Code 502 describe different forms of unauthorized computer access.

The activities that are prohibited under this statute, and the penalties for each of them, are:

1.1. Unauthorized access; assisting with unauthorized access

The most basic way in which you can violate PC 502(c) is by accessing (or causing to be accessed) any computer, computer system, or computer network, provided you do so:

  • Knowingly; and
  • Without permission.6

Example: Marsha suspects her husband Dave is having an affair and is communicating with his mistress through his work email.

Marsha knows enough personal information about Dave that, after a few tries, she is able to guess his password for his work email. She uses that password to log in to his email and reads through it.

Marsha has just committed the crime of unauthorized access to a computer.

You can also be charged with unauthorized computer access if you provide someone else with a means of accessing a computer, computer system or computer network, knowingly and without permission, so that they can commit any of the offenses covered by PC 502(c).7

Example: Let's return to our example of Marsha above. Let's say Marsha is unable to guess Dave's password. But she is good buddies with Dave's secretary Hilary, who does know his password.

Marsha tells Hilary about her concerns and convinces Hilary to let her go into Dave's office and access his work computer.

Hilary could also be charged under PC 502(c) for providing Marsha with the means of accessing the office computer.

Penalties

The penalties for either of these forms of Penal Code 502(c) PC unauthorized access to a computer are as follows:

For a first offense that doesn't cause any “injury” to anyone, this offense is an infraction in California law. If convicted, you can be fined up to one thousand dollars ($1,000).8

(Note that “injury” for these purposes can mean any changes, deletions or damage to a computer, computer network, computer system or computer data.9)

For a second offense, or if the offense causes anyone a financial loss of five thousand dollars ($5,000) or less, this offense becomes a misdemeanor. In this case it is punishable by:

  • Misdemeanor (summary) probation;
  • Imprisonment in the county jail for up to one (1) year; and/or
  • A fine of not more than five thousand dollars ($5,000).10

Finally, if this form of unauthorized computer access causes someone to suffer a loss of more than five thousand dollars ($5,000), then it becomes a wobbler—that is, it can be charged either as a misdemeanor (with the same potential penalties listed above) or as a felony.

handcuffs
Penalties for unauthorized access to a computer may depend on whether any injury resulted from the access.

The potential felony penalties are:

  • Felony (formal) probation;
  • Sixteen (16) months, two (2) years or three (3) years in county jail; and/or
  • A fine of up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000).11

1.2. Altering, deleting or taking data

Another—and more serious—form of unauthorized computer access under PC 502 consists of doing any of the following:

  1. Knowingly accessing and without permission altering, damaging, deleting, destroying or otherwise using any data, computer, computer system or computer network, in order to either: a) devise or execute a scheme to defraud, deceive or extort; or b) wrongfully control or obtain money, property or data;
  2. Knowingly accessing and without permission taking, copying or making use of any data from a computer, system or network, or taking or copying any supporting documentation, whether existing or resident internal or external to the computer, system or network; or
  3. Knowingly accessing and without permission adding, damaging, deleting or destroying any data, computer software or computer programs.12

“Supporting documentation” means all information pertaining to the design, construction, classification, implementation, use or modification of a computer, computer system, computer network, computer program or computer software, which is both:

  1. Not generally available to the public; and
  2. Necessary for the operation of the computer, computer system, computer network, computer program or computer software.13

Example: David is an engineer at a technology company. He quits his job.

When he leaves, he takes with him computer data files that contain the programming code used by the company to develop its main product.

Dave then starts his own company selling a product that looks suspiciously like the product sold by his old employer, which he may have developed with the code he “stole” from the employer.

David is guilty of unauthorized access to a computer because he accessed his company's data and then took and made use of that data without permission.14

This form of unauthorized computer access—in which one alters, deletes or takes data without permission—is a wobbler.15

The potential misdemeanor penalties are up to one (1) year in county jail and/or a fine of up to five thousand dollars ($5,000).

hands-working-at-computer-keyboard
Disrupting or denying computer services is a form of unauthorized computer access.

The potential felony penalties are sixteen (16) months, two (2) years or three (3) years in county jail and/or a fine of up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000).16

1.3. Disrupting or denying computer services

You can also be charged with California unauthorized computer access if you, knowingly and without permission, disrupt or cause the disruption of computer services or deny or cause the denial of computer services to an authorized user of a computer, computer system or computer network.17

This form of Penal Code 502(c) PC is also a wobbler and carries the same penalties as altering, deleting or taking data (see Section 1.2, above).

1.4. Using computer services without permission

California's unauthorized computer access and fraud law prohibits using (or causing to be used) computer services, knowingly and without permission.18

“Computer services” includes (but is not limited to) all of the following:

  • Computer time;
  • Data processing;
  • Storage functions;
  • Internet services;
  • Electronic mail services; and
  • Electronic message services.19

Example: Santiago lives next door to a coffee shop that offers free wireless internet to its customers only, with a two-hour limit. Santiago is aware of these restrictions but still accesses the coffee shop's wi-fi from his apartment, where he works from home, every day.

Santiago may be guilty of unauthorized computer access for using these computer services without permission.

This form of unauthorized computer access is a misdemeanor if all of the following are true:

  • This is a first offense;
  • No “injury” resulted; and
  • The value of the computer services used is nine hundred fifty dollars ($950) or less.20

In this case, the maximum county jail sentence is one (1) year, and the maximum fine is five thousand dollars ($5,000).21

But unauthorized access to computer services becomes a wobbler if any of the following is true:

  1. This is a second or subsequent violation of this law;
  2. The violation resulted in an injury or in a victim expenditure greater than five thousand dollars ($5,000); or
  3. The value of the computer services used is more than nine hundred fifty dollars ($950).22

The wobbler penalties are the same as those for altering, deleting or taking data (see Section 1.2, above).23

1.5. Introducing computer contaminants

Creating or spreading a computer virus is also a crime under Penal Code 502(c) PC.

virus-detected-alert
Penal Code 502 PC also makes it a crime to spread computer viruses.

Specifically, that law prohibits knowingly introducing any “computer contaminant” into any computer, computer system or computer network.24

A “computer contaminant” is any set of computer instructions that are designed to modify, damage, destroy, record or transmit information within a computer, system or network without the intent or permission of the owner of the information. This includes so-called “viruses” or “worms” that are self-replicating or self-propagating.25

This form of the offense is a misdemeanor if it is a first violation and does not cause any “injury.” But it is a wobbler if either of those two conditions is not met.26

Both the misdemeanor and the wobbler/felony penalties for this offense are the same as those for using computer services without permission (see Section 1.4, above).27

1.6. Using someone else's domain name or profile

Another way to violate California's unauthorized computer access law is to use the internet domain name or profile of another individual, corporation or entity in the sending of one or more electronic mail messages or posts—if you thereby damage or cause damage to a computer, computer data, computer system or computer network.28

Example: Pierre hacks into several people's Facebook profiles. Within their profiles, he “shares” a link.

When Facebook “friends” of those people click on the link, it introduces a virus onto their computers that severely impedes the computers' functioning.

Pierre can be charged with two counts of PC 502(c): one for introducing a computer contaminant (the virus), and one for using other people's profiles to do so.

The penalties for this form of Penal Code 502(c) PC are as follows:

For a first violation that does not result in injury, the crime is an infraction with a maximum fine of one thousand dollars ($1,000).29 (It may be the case that this form of unauthorized access cannot actually meet these conditions and be charged as an infraction, since one of its elements is that it cause injury in the form of damage to a computer, computer system or computer network.)

For a second or subsequent violation or one that results in injury, the crime is a misdemeanor with a maximum county jail sentence of one (1) year and a maximum fine of five thousand dollars ($5,000).30

laptop-with-password-prompt
Use of someone else's email address or internet profile can lead to PC 502(c) charges.

1.7. Unauthorized access to government or public safety computer systems

Finally, the crime of unauthorized computer access/fraud in California includes all of the following:

  • Knowingly and without permission disrupting or causing the disruption of government computer services, or denying or causing the denial of government computer services to an authorized user;
  • Knowingly accessing and without permission adding, altering, damaging, deleting or destroying any data, computer software or computer programs which reside or exist internal or external to a public safety infrastructure computer system computer, computer system or computer network;
  • Knowingly and without permission disrupting or causing the disruption of a public safety infrastructure computer system, or denying or causing the denial of computer services to an authorized user if a public safety infrastructure computer system;
  • Knowingly and without permission providing or assisting in providing a means of accessing a public safety infrastructure computer system computer, system or network; and
  • Knowingly introducing a computer contaminant into any public safety infrastructure computer system computer, computer system or computer network.31

“Public safety infrastructure computer systems” are computer systems that are necessary for the health and safety of the public, including those owned, operated or used by drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities, hospitals, emergency service providers, telecommunication companies and gas and electric utility companies.32

These forms of the crime of unauthorized access to a computer carry penalties identical to those described above for comparable crimes that do not involve government or public safety infrastructure computer systems.33

1.8. Additional penalties

For all forms of unauthorized computer access, in addition to the criminal penalties we just discussed, the owner of any computer equipment or data that was damaged by the criminal act can sue the person who allegedly committed them in a civil suit for damages.34

Also, any computer equipment used to commit one of these offenses may be subject to asset forfeiture.35

2. Scope of Employment Exception to California Penal Code 502(c)

The legal definition of unauthorized computer access is likely to make anyone who has ever held an office job a little nervous.

According to San Francisco cybercrime defense attorney Reve Bautista36:

“Let's say one day you violate company policy by copying a file related to your work to a portable drive. You do this so that you can work on it on at home over the weekend instead of coming into the office. This sounds a lot like ‘knowingly accessing and without permission taking, copying, or using any data from a computer.'”

online-security
You cannot be prosecuted under PC 502(c) for activities within the scope of your employment.

Luckily Penal Code 502(c) PC carves out an exception for acts that people commit within the scope of their employment—as long as they are doing things that are reasonably necessary to the performance of their jobs.37

In some cases, this exception may apply even when you are doing things at work that your employer did not specifically ask you to do—and would not have approved of you doing.

Example: Kelly is a police officer who uses his work computer to obtain personal information about certain individuals, including celebrities and his ex-girlfriend, that he has no legitimate reason to obtain.

But he is not guilty of unauthorized use of his work computer, because obtaining this kind of information about other individuals for work-related purposes was a part of his job, and his computer access was set up to allow him to do this.38

Also, you cannot be committed of unauthorized use of computer services (see Section 1.4 above) for your activities at work even when these activities are technically outside the scope of your job, as long as either of the following is true:

  • Your activities don't cause an injury to your employer or anyone else; or
  • The value of any computer services that you use without authorization does not exceed a total of two hundred fifty dollars ($250).39

3. Legal Defenses to Charges of Illegal Computer Access

The wide variety of activity that can lead to charges under California Penal Code 502(c) PC—and the poor understanding many law enforcement officers and prosecutors have of computer technology—leads to numerous people being unfairly accused of this crime.

In this situation, one of the following common legal defenses to charges of unauthorized access to a computer/computer fraud may prove helpful.

You were wrongly accused

It is alarmingly common for police to target the “wrong guy” (or “wrong girl”) when investigating computer crimes.

Many serious cases of unauthorized access to computers involve technical details that confuse investigators. And many such crimes are perpetrated by people who are sophisticated enough to find a way to make it seem as if someone else is the culprit.

courtroom-from-judge's-perspective
It is common for people to be falsely accused of computer fraud.

If you are wrongly accused of an activity banned by PC 502, it is extremely important that you have on your side a sophisticated, experienced criminal defense attorney—someone smart and knowledgeable enough to understand the technicalities and craft the most effective legal defense.

You did not act knowingly

As we discussed above, you are only guilty of unauthorized access to a computer if you act knowingly. But many of us perform computer-related activities accidentally or unconsciously on an almost daily basis.

Proving that you acted knowingly often requires prosecutors to undertake elaborate investigations and gather extensive evidence. If you have a strong argument that you did not act knowingly, then you may be able to persuade them to dismiss or reduce the charges.

4. PC 502(c) and Related Offenses

Other California offenses that are closely related to unauthorized access to a computer include:

4.1. Identity theft

California's identity theft laws (Penal Code 530.5 PC) prohibit four types of behavior:

  1. Willfully obtaining another person's personal identifying information and using that information for any unlawful purpose without that person's consent;
  2. Acquiring or retaining possession of another person's personal identifying information, without that person's consent and with the intent to commit a fraud;
  3. Selling, transferring or providing the personal identifying information of another person, without that person's consent and with the intent to commit a fraud; and
  4. Selling, transferring or providing the personal identifying information of another person, with the actual knowledge that the information will be used to commit a fraud.40
faceless-man-in-hood-working-at-laptop
Identity theft and unauthorized access to a computer are sometimes charged together.

Often people are accused of unauthorized access to a computer or computer network in order to steal other people's personal identifying information. In that sort of situation, defendants are frequently charged with both PC 502 and PC 530.5.

California identity theft is a wobbler, with a maximum potential felony sentence of three (3) years.41

4.2. Credit card fraud

Similarly, people are frequently accused of illegally accessing computers or networks in order to obtain other people's credit card numbers, which can then be used to make unauthorized purchases.

In this sort of situation, a person could be charged with both unauthorized computer access and California credit card fraud.

Credit card fraud under Penal Code 484e PC may be a misdemeanor or a wobbler, depending on the amount of money that is alleged to have been taken through the fraud.42

4.3. Grand theft/petty theft

If you use or access a computer or computer network without authorization, and in doing so you obtain someone else's money or property, then you could be charged with both PC 502(c) unauthorized computer access and either California grand theft or California petty theft.

Generally speaking, if you steal property worth more than nine hundred fifty dollars ($950), you will be charged with grand theft. If you steal property worth $950 or less, you will be charged with petty theft.43

Grand theft is a wobbler. The maximum misdemeanor sentence is one (1) year in county jail, and the potential felony sentence is sixteen (16) months, two (2) years or three (3) years.44

Petty theft is usually a misdemeanor and carries a county jail sentence of up to six (6) months.45

Call us for help…

friendly-call-center-personnel

For questions about Penal Code 502(c) PC unauthorized computer access, or to discuss your case confidentially with one of our California criminal defense attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us at Shouse Law Group.

We have local criminal law offices in and around Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.

For more information on Nevada computer fraud and cyber crime laws, please see our page on Nevada computer fraud and cyber crime laws.

Additional Resources:

California Attorney General - Identity Theft Resources

National Crime Prevention Council: What is Cybercrime?

Legal References:


1 Penal Code 502 PC – Unauthorized access to computers, computer systems and computer data. (“(c) Except as provided in subdivision (h), any person who commits any of the following acts is guilty of a public offense: (1) Knowingly accesses and without permission alters, damages, deletes, destroys, or otherwise uses any data, computer, computer system, or computer network in order to either (A) devise or execute any scheme or artifice to defraud, deceive, or extort, or (B) wrongfully control or obtain money, property, or data. (2) Knowingly accesses and without permission takes, copies, or makes use of any data from a computer, computer system, or computer network, or takes or copies any supporting documentation, whether existing or residing internal or external to a computer, computer system, or computer network. (3) Knowingly and without permission uses or causes to be used computer services. (4) Knowingly accesses and without permission adds, alters, damages, deletes, or destroys any data, computer software, or computer programs which reside or exist internal or external to a computer, computer system, or computer network. (5) Knowingly and without permission disrupts or causes the disruption of computer services or denies or causes the denial of computer services to an authorized user of a computer, computer system, or computer network. (6) Knowingly and without permission provides or assists in providing a means of accessing a computer, computer system, or computer network in violation of this section. (7) Knowingly and without permission accesses or causes to be accessed any computer, computer system, or computer network. (8) Knowingly introduces any computer contaminant into any computer, computer system, or computer network. (9) Knowingly and without permission uses the Internet domain name or profile of another individual, corporation, or entity in connection with the sending of one or more electronic mail messages or posts and thereby damages or causes damage to a computer, computer data, computer system, or computer network. (10) Knowingly and without permission disrupts or causes the disruption of government computer services or denies or causes the denial of government computer services to an authorized user of a government computer, computer system, or computer network. (11) Knowingly accesses and without permission adds, alters, damages, deletes, or destroys any data, computer software, or computer programs which reside or exist internal or external to a public safety infrastructure computer system computer, computer system, or computer network. (12) Knowingly and without permission disrupts or causes the disruption of public safety infrastructure computer system computer services or denies or causes the denial of computer services to an authorized user of a public safety infrastructure computer system computer, computer system, or computer network. (13) Knowingly and without permission provides or assists in providing a means of accessing a computer, computer system, or public safety infrastructure computer system computer, computer system, or computer network in violation of this section. (14) Knowingly introduces any computer contaminant into any public safety infrastructure computer system computer, computer system, or computer network.”)

2 Penal Code 502 PC – Unauthorized access to computers, computer systems and computer data [penalties]. (“(d)(1) Any person who violates any of the provisions of paragraph (1), (2), (4), (5), (10), (11), or (12) of subdivision (c) is punishable by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 for 16 months, or two or three years, or by both that fine and imprisonment, or by a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment. (2) Any person who violates paragraph (3) of subdivision (c) is punishable as follows: (A) For the first violation that does not result in injury, and where the value of the computer services used does not exceed nine hundred fifty dollars ($950), by a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment. (B) For any violation that results in a victim expenditure in an amount greater than five thousand dollars ($5,000) or in an injury, or if the value of the computer services used exceeds nine hundred fifty dollars ($950), or for any second or subsequent violation, by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 for 16 months, or two or three years, or by both that fine and imprisonment, or by a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment. (3) Any person who violates paragraph (6), (7), or (13) of subdivision (c) is punishable as follows: (A) For a first violation that does not result in injury, an infraction punishable by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000). (B) For any violation that results in a victim expenditure in an amount not greater than five thousand dollars ($5,000), or for a second or subsequent violation, by a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment. (C) For any violation that results in a victim expenditure in an amount greater than five thousand dollars ($5,000), by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 for 16 months, or two or three years, or by both that fine and imprisonment, or by a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment. (4) Any person who violates paragraph (8) or (14) of subdivision (c) is punishable as follows: (A) For a first violation that does not result in injury, a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment. (B) For any violation that results in injury, or for a second or subsequent violation, by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170, or by both that fine and imprisonment. (5) Any person who violates paragraph (9) of subdivision (c) is punishable as follows: (A) For a first violation that does not result in injury, an infraction punishable by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000). (B) For any violation that results in injury, or for a second or subsequent violation, by a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.”)

3 Same.

4 Same.

5 See Penal Code 502 PC – Unauthorized access to computers, computer systems and computer data, endnotes 1 and 2 above.

6 Same.

7 Same.

8 Same.

9 Penal Code 502 PC – Unauthorized access to computers, computer systems and computer data. (“(b) For the purposes of this section, the following terms have the following meanings: . . . (8) “Injury” means any alteration, deletion, damage, or destruction of a computer system, computer network, computer program, or data caused by the access, or the denial of access to legitimate users of a computer system, network, or program.”)

10 See Penal Code 502 PC – Unauthorized access to computers, computer systems and computer data, endnotes 1 and 2 above.

11 Same.

12 Same.

13 Penal Code 502 PC – Unauthorized access to computers, computer systems and computer data. (“(b) For the purposes of this section, the following terms have the following meanings: . . . (9) “Supporting documentation” includes, but is not limited to, all information, in any form, pertaining to the design, construction, classification, implementation, use, or modification of a computer, computer system, computer network, computer program, or computer software, which information is not generally available to the public and is necessary for the operation of a computer, computer system, computer network, computer program, or computer software.”)

14 Loosely based on the facts of People v. Hawkins (2002) 98 Cal.App.4th 1428.

15 See Penal Code 502 PC – Unauthorized access to computers, computer systems and computer data, endnotes 1 and 2 above.

16 Same.

17 Same.

18 Same.

19 Penal Code 502 PC – Unauthorized access to computers, computer systems and computer data. (“(b) For the purposes of this section, the following terms have the following meanings: . . . (4) “Computer services” includes, but is not limited to, computer time, data processing, or storage functions, Internet services, electronic mail services, electronic message services, or other uses of a computer, computer system, or computer network.”)

20 Penal Code 502 PC – Unauthorized access to computers, computer systems and computer data, endnotes 1 and 2 above.

21 Same.

22 Same.

23 Same.

24 Same.

25 Penal Code 502 PC – Unauthorized access to computers, computer systems and computer data. (“(b) For the purposes of this section, the following terms have the following meanings: . . . (12) “Computer contaminant” means any set of computer instructions that are designed to modify, damage, destroy, record, or transmit information within a computer, computer system, or computer network without the intent or permission of the owner of the information. They include, but are not limited to, a group of computer instructions commonly called viruses or worms, that are self-replicating or self-propagating and are designed to contaminate other computer programs or computer data, consume computer resources, modify, destroy, record, or transmit data, or in some other fashion usurp the normal operation of the computer, computer system, or computer network.”)

26 Penal Code 502 PC – Unauthorized access to computers, computer systems and computer data, endnotes 1 and 2 above.

27 Same.

28 Same.

29 Same.

30 Same.

31 Same.

32 Penal Code 502 PC – Unauthorized access to computers, computer systems and computer data. (“(b) For the purposes of this section, the following terms have the following meanings: . . . (7) “Public safety infrastructure computer system” means any computer system, or part thereof, that is necessary for the health and safety of the public including computer systems owned, operated, or used by drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities, hospitals, emergency service providers, telecommunication companies, and gas and electric utility companies.”)

33 Penal Code 502 PC – Unauthorized access to computers, computer systems and computer data, endnotes 1 and 2 above.

34 Penal Code 502 PC – Unauthorized access to computers, computer systems and computer data. (“(e)(1) In addition to any other civil remedy available, the owner or lessee of the computer, computer system, computer network, computer program, or data who suffers damage or loss by reason of a violation of any of the provisions of subdivision (c) may bring a civil action against the violator for compensatory damages and injunctive relief or other equitable relief. Compensatory damages shall include any expenditure reasonably and necessarily incurred by the owner or lessee to verify that a computer system, computer network, computer program, or data was or was not altered, damaged, or deleted by the access. For the purposes of actions authorized by this subdivision, the conduct of an unemancipated minor shall be imputed to the parent or legal guardian having control or custody of the minor, pursuant to the provisions of Section 1714.1 of the Civil Code.”)

35 Penal Code 502 PC – Unauthorized access to computers, computer systems and computer data. (“(g) Any computer, computer system, computer network, or any software or data, owned by the defendant, that is used during the commission of any public offense described in subdivision (c) or any computer, owned by the defendant, which is used as a repository for the storage of software or data illegally obtained in violation of subdivision (c) shall be subject to forfeiture, as specified in Section 502.01.”)

36 San Francisco cybercrimes defense attorney Reve Bautista spent over 20 years as a prosecutor with the Contra Costa District Attorney and the San Francisco District Attorney. As a result, she is well-known at every courthouse in the San Francisco Bay Area. She uses her inside knowledge of how prosecutors think and build cases to defend clients accused of a wide variety of offenses, including so-called internet fraud and other white-collar crimes.

37 Penal Code 502 PC – Unauthorized access to computers, computer systems and computer data. (“(h)(1)Subdivision (c) does not apply to punish any acts which are committed by a person within the scope of his or her lawful employment. For purposes of this section, a person acts within the scope of his or her employment when he or she performs acts which are reasonably necessary to the performance of his or her work assignment.”)

38 Chrisman v. City of Los Angeles (2007) 155 Cal.App.4th 29, 37. (“Together these cases show that an employer's disapproval of an employee's conduct does not cast the conduct outside the scope of employment. If the employer's disapproval were the measure, then virtually any misstep, mistake, or misconduct by an employee involving an employer's computer would, by respondents' reasoning, be criminal. For example, if an employer prohibited employees from logging onto the Internet to check their personal email, respondents' definition of scope of employment would make reading one's email on company time a crime even where the employee read the email on a computer regularly assigned to that employee. Surely, that was not the Legislature's intent in enacting subdivision (c)(7).”)

39 Penal Code 502 PC – Unauthorized access to computers, computer systems and computer data. (“(h) . . . (2) Paragraph (3) of subdivision (c) does not apply to penalize any acts committed by a person acting outside of his or her lawful employment, provided that the employee's activities do not cause an injury, as defined in paragraph (8) of subdivision (b), to the employer or another, or provided that the value of supplies or computer services, as defined in paragraph (4) of subdivision (b), which are used does not exceed an accumulated total of two hundred fifty dollars ($250).”)

40 Penal Code 530.5 PC – Unauthorized use of personal identifying information of another person; attempt to obtain credit, goods, services, real property or medical information; commission of crime; punishment for first, subsequent or multiple offenses; sale of information; mail theft; liability of computer service or software providers [often charged along with unauthorized computer access].

41 Same.

42 Penal Code 484e PC – Theft of access cards or account information [may be charged along with unauthorized access to a computer].

43 Penal Code 487 & 488 PC – Definition of grand theft and petty theft.

44 Penal Code 489 PC – Punishment for grand theft [may be charged along with unauthorized computer access].

45 Penal Code 490 PC – Punishment for petty theft [may be charged along with unauthorized computer access].

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