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In Colorado, computer crime covers a variety of criminal offenses that involve the use of a computer or the internet. This includes unlawful access to a computer system, theft using a computer, or use of a computer to cause damage. Under C.R.S. 18-5.5-102, computer crime may be a petty offense, misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the type of crime involved and the amount of damage caused.
In Colorado, computer crime covers a variety of criminal offenses that involve the use of a computer or the internet. This includes unlawful access of a computer system, theft using a computer, or use of a computer to cause damage.
1. What are computer crimes?
Under Colorado law, computer crimes involve the unlawful use or access of a computer, computer system, or network. This includes the use of a computer to cause damage, commit theft, or even purchase online tickets to an event. Under C.R.S. 18-5.5-102, a person commits computer crime if they knowingly:
Access or use a computer, network, or computer system without authorization;
Access any computer for the purpose of fraud;
Access any computer by means of false pretenses, misrepresentations, false promises, or false passwords;
Access any computer to commit theft;
Without authorization, alters, damages, or interrupts any computer, computer network, or computer system;
Cause the transmission of a computer program, software, information, code, data, or command by means of a computer to cause damage;
Use a software application that runs automated tasks over the internet to access a computer or computer system to circumvent or disable any electronic queues intended by the seller to limit the number of event tickets that may be purchased by any single person in an online event ticket sale.
Use of a computer under Colorado computer crime statutes includes a computer, computer network, computer program, computer software, or computer system.1
Increasingly, people are using their mobile phones or tablets to access the internet and social media. A mobile phone or tablet may be considered a computer for the purposes of computer crimes.
2. What are examples of computer crimes?
Computer crimes include activities done to damage a website or computer system, or for financial gain. These types of computer crime can involve one person or a group of people working together. Examples of computer crimes include:
Stealing data or information
Denial of Service attacks
Spreading malware or viruses
3. What are the penalties for computer crimes?
Under C.R.S. 18-5.5-102, the penalties for computer crimes depend on the nature of the offense and the value of theft, damage, or loss.
Accessing a computer without authorization is a class 2 misdemeanor for a first offense. However, accessing a computer without authorization after a previous computer crime conviction is a class 6 felony. The penalties for a class 6 felony include 12-18 months in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
All other computer crimes may be charged as a petty offense, misdemeanor or felony, based on the value of damage or theft involved.
8 to 24 years in prison and/or $5,000 to $1,000,000
4. Are computer crimes a federal offense?
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) investigates many cases of cybercrimes, identity theft, and computer crimes. However, in addition to state criminal charges, many computer crimes may also be federal offenses. The federal courts have jurisdiction over some computer crimes because they involve the use of the internet. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) is a federal law that provides criminal charges for stealing, damaging, or illegally accessing a computer system.2
As a federal offense, violations of the CFAA are prosecuted by a federal prosecutor, in federal court, with sentences carried out in a federal penitentiary. The penalties for a conviction under the CFAA include up to 10 years in prison and a fine for a first offense and imprisonment for up to 20 years for a subsequent violation.3
5. Related Offenses
5.1. Identity Theft C.R.S. 18-5-902
In Colorado, it is a criminal offense to use another person’s personal or financial identifying information to obtain anything of value. This includes using another person’s identity to file a claim for workers’ comp benefits. Identity theft can be a felony or a misdemeanor.
5.2. Theft C.R.S. 18-4-401
In Colorado, the penalties for theft depend on the value of theft and the victim. Theft of property valued at $300 to less than $2,000 is a misdemeanor. However, theft or fraud of $2,000 or more is a felony offense. Theft of property of less than $300 is a petty offense. Penalties for theft can include jail time, fines, and a mandatory parole period.
Call us for help…
If you have been accused of computer crimes, please contact us at Colorado Legal Defense Group. Our Colorado defense attorneys have many years of experience representing clients who have been charged with internet and computer criminal offenses. We are among the best Colorado criminal defense attorneys to call. Contact us today for a free consultation by phone or in-person or in our Denver law office.
C.R.S. 18-5.5-101. Note that computer crime penalties were slightly different prior to March 1, 2022. SB21-271.