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Minnesota Cybercrime Law: Stay Informed & Stay Up-To-Date

The landscape of crimes has significantly changed in the past two decades due to the increase in technology and the advent of the internet. The criminal laws that are being passed are evolving as fast as technology. Just like it is hard to keep up with the ever-changing technology, so too is it hard to stay informed on the cybercrime laws. Additionally, this fast-changing technology is also giving the police more tools to investigate crimes, and lawyers more tools to prosecute and defend these crimes.

Below are just a few of the types of cybercrimes that you could be charged with:

COMPUTER DAMAGE Minn. Stat. §609.88

This charge encompasses doing damage or destroying a computer, computer system, computer network, software, etc., whether that be directly or through using a destructive program. This crime ranges from misdemeanor if the loss is less than $500, to two different levels of felonies when the loss is over $500 or over $2,500.

COMPUTER THEFT, Minnesota Statute §609.89

If one intentionally and without authorization or claim of right accesses or causes to be accessed any computer, computer system, computer network or any part thereof for the purpose of obtaining services or property; or If one intentionally and without claim of right, and with intent to deprive the owner of use or possession, takes, transfers, conceals or retains possession of any computer, computer system, or any computer software or data contained in a computer, computer system, or computer network. Just as with the computer damage charge the penalty ranges from a misdemeanor if the loss is less than $500, to two different levels of felonies when the loss is over $500 or over $2,500.

UNAUTHORIZED COMPUTER ACCESS, Minn. Stat. § 609.891

A person is guilty of unauthorized computer access if the person intentionally and without authorization attempts to or does penetrate a computer security system or electronic terminal. The penalty for this crime ranges from a misdemeanor to a felony based on various factors as described below: The crime is a felony if the unauthorized use creates a grave risk of causing death, if it is a second gross misdemeanor, or if the access is used to access a door or attaching a device to allow later access to a door or panel. The crime is a gross misdemeanor if the access creates a public health risk, compromises protected data, or if the data accessed is not public data. The crime is misdemeanor if none of the above facts exist.

CRIMINAL USE OF ENCRYPTION*, Minn. Stat. § 609.8912

Whoever intentionally uses or attempts to use encryption to do any of the following is guilty of various felony level criminal use of encryption: (1) to commit, further, or facilitate conduct constituting a crime; (2) to conceal the commission of any crime; (3) to conceal or protect the identity of a person who has committed any crime; or (4) to prevent, impede, delay, or disrupt the normal operation or use of another's computer, computer program, or computer system. *"Encryption" means any protective or disruptive measure, including but not limited to, cryptography, enciphering, or encoding that: (1) causes or makes any data, information, image, program, signal, or sound unintelligible or unusable; or (2) prevents, impedes, delays, or disrupts access to any data, information, image, program, signal, or sound.

FACILITATING ACCESS TO COMPUTER SECURITY SYSTEM, Minn. Stat.§ 609.8913

It is a gross misdemeanor if a person knows or has reason to know that by facilitating the access of a computer system, the person they are helping intents to commit a crime. This includes disclosure of passwords, ID codes, pin numbers, or other confidential information about a computer security system.

IDENTITY THEFT, Minn. Stat. §609.527,

Crime of electronic use of false pretense to obtain identity. It is a crime if a person who, with intent to obtain the identity of another, uses a false pretense in an email to another person or in a web page, electronic communication, advertisement, or any other communication on the Internet, is guilty of a crime. This is a felony with a maximum sentence of not more than five years, and/or $10,000. It is not a defense if there was no financial or other loss, or that the person did not obtain or use the identity.
Unlawful possession or use of scanning device or reencoder. It is a felony to use a scanning device or reencoder without permission of the cardholder where information is being scanned or reencoded, with the intent to commit, aid, or abet any unlawful activity, is guilty of a crime, the possession of such a device apparatus, software etc. reencoder.

CELLULAR TELEPHONE COUNTERFEITING; Minn. Stat. §609.894

It is a gross misdemeanor for a person to knowingly possess a cloned cellular telephone and knows that the telephone is unlawfully cloned. However, there are also felony level crimes as well. Below are the lists of felonies under this statute: Cellular counterfeiting in the second degree. A person commits the crime of cellular counterfeiting in the second degree if the person knowingly possesses, and knows the unlawful nature of using, any telephone cloning paraphernalia or any instrument capable of intercepting or manipulating electronic serial numbers, mobile identification numbers, other identifiable data, or a combination of those items. A person who violates paragraph (a) may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than three years and may be fined up to $7,000, or both.

Cellular counterfeiting in the first degree. A person commits the crime of cellular counterfeiting in the first degree if the person knowingly possesses or distributes, and knows the unlawful nature of using, any telephone cloning paraphernalia or any instrument capable of intercepting or manipulating electronic serial numbers, mobile identification numbers, other identifiable data, or a combination of those items, and agrees with, encourages, solicits, or permits one or more other persons to engage in or cause, or obtain cellular telephone service through, cellular counterfeiting. A person who violates paragraph (a) may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than five years and may be fined up to $10,000, or both.

Other Crimes Committed with the use of Electronic Technology

In addition to specific crimes that involve the internet or a technological device, many crimes are committed using such devices. One example would be credit card fraud, where someone orders something online through a website using a credit card number that is not theirs and they do not have permission. Other types of crimes that can be perpetrated using a technological device include harassment/stalking, violations Order for Protections or Harassment Restraining Orders. This frequently happens when the person has contact via email, text, facebook or other types of electronic technology. Obtaining proof of crime from electronic technology More and more the police are using electronic technology to prove various crimes. The police are often obtaining a search warrant for computers, servers, discs, phones, smart watches, data stored in a vehicle, and even smart speakers. Another tool the police are using is to obtain cell tower information to determine if the person was in the vicinity of a crime by use of the pings on the cell phone towers from the person’s phone. As technology continues to change so do the way in which criminals use the technology to commit a crime, and the police/prosecution to use technology to prove a crime.

Use of Cell Phones, GPS and Other Electronic Devices in a Motor Vehicle

Many states have passed laws requiring hand free cellular calls, and against texting and driving. First of all, the statistics say that talking on a hand-help phone or texting can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. We advise no use of electronic technology in your motor vehicle while driving, unless it is integrated into the vehicle, is hands-free and does not distract you from driving. It only takes a split second of time to be distracted from driving and cause an accident that involves property damage, injury and even death. That phone call or text is not worth what can happen to you and others if you cause an accident. Young drivers seem to understand the need to not drink and drive, but every day I see people on talking on the phone, texting or even using the phone for GPS.
Many ordinary good people are being sent to prison for causing serious injury or death to another person just for the simple act of a quick text. Currently we represent a client who was simply reaching for her phone, crossed the centerline killing two people, and is charged with two counts of Criminal Vehicular Homicide. This young woman is just starting college and is facing serious criminal charges, not to mention having to live the rest of her life knowing she killed two people. As discussed below, if you are involved in a motor vehicle accident do not give permission to the police to look on your phone or give them a password. Also, do not admit to any wrongdoing regarding the accident.

What should I do if the police want to access my computer, phone etc.?

In many cases the police will ask for permission to access one’s phone, computer, etc. You do not and should not agree to do so until you have talked to an attorney. This right is protected under the Minnesota and U.S. Constitutions. Even if the police get a search warrant to search these items, under current law you cannot be compelled to give them your password. However, recent case law has held that the court can compel you to provide a fingerprint or facial recognition to open a device. It is our advice to not use these methods of security on your phone and to have complicated passwords that are hard to crack. Even if you don’t think you have anything to hide on your device, you never know what the police are looking for.

If you have been charges with a cybercrime or have questions about cybercrimes, call Bruno Law at (763) 545-7900 or send us a message.


Related Articles and Resources:

The Consequences of Criminal Sexual Cybercrimes

The Expansion of Federal Cybercrime Laws and How it Affects You

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