Under Virginia Law 18.2-152.4, it is unlawful for any person, with malicious intent, or through intentionally deceptive means and without authority, to:
1. Temporarily or permanently remove, halt, or otherwise disable any computer data, computer programs or computer software from a computer or computer network;
2. Cause a computer to malfunction, regardless of how long the malfunction persists;
3. Alter, disable, or erase any computer data, computer programs or computer software;
4. Effect the creation or alteration of a financial instrument or of an electronic transfer of funds;
5. Use a computer or computer network to cause physical injury to the property of another;
6. Use a computer or computer network to make or cause to be made an unauthorized copy, in any form, including, but not limited to, any printed or electronic form of computer data, computer programs or computer software residing in, communicated by, or produced by a computer or computer network;
8. Install or cause to be installed, or collect information through, computer software that records all or a majority of the keystrokes made on the computer of another; or
9. Install or cause to be installed on the computer of another, computer software for the purpose of (i) taking control of that computer so that it can cause damage to another computer or (ii) disabling or disrupting the ability of the computer to share or transmit instructions or data to other computers or to any related computer equipment or devices, including but not limited to printers, scanners, or fax machines.
A violation of the computer trespass law is a Class 1 misdemeanor criminal offense. It is punished by up to one year in jail and a $2500.00 fine and restitution.
Felony Penalty Elevations for Computer Trespass
If there is damage to the property of another valued at $1,000 or more that was caused by the computer trespass, and done with malicious intent, the offense is elevated to a Class 6 felony. It is punished by up to 6 years in prison and a $2500.00 fine and restitution.
There is also a Class 6 felony penalty elevation when computer software is installed on more than five computers of another, with malicious intent.
And, the penalty is also elevated to a Class 6 felony when computer software that records keystrokes made on the computer of another is installed with malicious intent.
The penalty is also elevated to a Class 6 felony when the victim is a local government, Commonwealth of Virginia, or utility provider. It is punished by up to 6 years in prison and a $2500.00 fine.
Computer fraud is a relatively new type of fraud in Virginia. The law tends to lag behind technological developments, so the law punishing use of computer technology to commit fraud is in a very simple stage right now. Virginia adopted what is called the Virginia Computer Crimes Act to punish various criminal abuse of computer technology. Simply, the fraud law reads: Any person who uses a computer or computer network, without authority and:
1. Obtains property or services by false pretenses;
2. Embezzles or commits larceny; or
3. Converts the property of another;
– is guilty of the crime of computer fraud.
If the value of the property or services obtained is $200 or more, the crime of computer fraud shall be punishable as a Class 5 felony. Where the value of the property or services obtained is less than $200, the crime of computer fraud shall be punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor. What’s important to notice here is that non-computer grand larceny of items worth over $200.00 is punishable by a Class 6 felony. Using a computer to commit grand larceny enhances punishment for that larceny.
The Virginia Computer Crimes Acts has a list of computer property that is capable of embezzlement. The following property is listed under Virginia VA Code Section 18.2-152.8:
1. Computers and computer networks;
2. Financial instruments, computer data, computer programs, computer software and all other personal property regardless of whether they are: (a) Tangible or intangible; (b) In a format readable by humans or by a computer; (c) In transit between computers or within a computer network or between any devices which comprise a computer; or (d) Located on any paper or in any device on which it is stored by a computer or by a human; and
3. Computer services.