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What is a computer crime in Massachusetts?

Computers have infiltrated the lives of almost everyone who lives in Massachusetts, and the English language has consequently incorporated new verbs and nouns -- spam, viruses, malware, identify theft and hacking, to name a few. Despite the advantages of living in the digital age, a few malefactors have found ways to subvert computers to in order to commit a crime. The Massachusetts legislature has responded by identifying certain computer actions as felonies.

The defining element in the Massachusetts computer crime statute is "intent to defraud." Anyone who commits any of several enumerated acts with fraudulent intent is guilty of a computer crime and may be subject to imprisonment for up to two-and-a-half years and a fine of $3,000. Specific crimes include obtaining access to a commercial computer system, using a computer as part of a scheme to defraud and using or modifying data on a computer system.

The Massachusetts statute does not specifically mention the Internet, but the definition of "commercial computer system" includes using a computer where such use or access is offered by another for monetary consideration. Because most computer users contract with a commercial firm to obtain access to the Internet for a fee, they fit the definition of commercial computer system. Consequently, most examples of computer fraud -- phishing, spam, viruses, hacking, malware -- are crimes in Massachusetts.

Federal law also attaches criminal liability to certain forms of computer activity that are similar or identical to state computer crimes. Anyone who is charged with a computer crime in Massachusetts may wish to confer with an experienced criminal defense attorney for advice on the law and facts that govern the case and for assistance in devising an effective defense strategy.

Source: FindLaw, "Massachusetts Computer Crimes Laws," accessed on Feb. 17, 2018

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