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 misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the type of crime involved and the amount of damage caused. In this article, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers will address:
- 1. What are computer crimes?
- 2. What are examples of computer crimes?
- 3. What are the penalties for computer crimes?
- 4. Are computer crimes a federal offense?
- 5. Related Offenses
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.
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:
- Phishing scams
- Stealing data or information
- Denial of Service attacks
- Identity theft
- Spreading malware or viruses
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 misdemeanor or a felony offense, based on the value of damage or theft involved.
Value of Damage or Theft
Class of Criminal Offense
Less than $300
3 to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000
$500 or more but less than $1,000
6 to 18 months in jail and a fine of up to $5,000
$1,000 or more but less than $20,000
2 to 6 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000
$20,000 or more
4 to 12 years in prison and a fine of up to $750,000
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
Computers can be involved in other criminal offenses. The use of a computer or the internet to commit fraud may be related to theft or identity theft. Identity theft is a felony and common theft may be a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the value of damage or loss.
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 is a class 4 felony in Colorado. Penalties for identity theft include 2 to 6 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.
In Colorado, the penalties for theft depend on the value of theft and the victim. Theft of property valued at less than $2,000 is a misdemeanor. However, theft or fraud of $2,000 or more is a felony 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
- 18 U.S.C. 1030
- 18 U.S.C. 1030(c)