Our Former Prosecutors & Accomplished Defense Lawyers Have Top Credentials & Experience Handling Internet Crimes Like Cyberstalking, Child Pornography, Luring, Cyber Harassment, Fraud, Hacking and Related Matters
The Internet—a word only recently added to our dictionary—drives our economy and expands our means of communication. Whether it’s a search query on Google, communications using Gmail, or social media platforms like Snapchat, the internet is an active part of almost everyone’s life. With so many transactions and communications over the internet, there are also opportunities for individuals to commit criminal offenses. Indeed, computer crimes involving improper use of the internet have become a major area of practice within the defense bar. Not surprisingly, our firm has considerable experience defending internet crime in both state and federal courts in New Jersey. If you are under investigation or have already been charged with this type of offense, our NJ internet crime defense lawyers possess the know-how to help you.
We are the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall, one of the state’s largest criminal defense practices, and can offer you unique qualifications to ensure that your internet criminal charge is successfully defended. Our firm provides clients with:
- Over 200 years of combined experience defending criminal charges in courts throughout New Jersey
- A team of criminal attorneys that is one of the largest in the state
- Former prosecutors who have served at the highest levels, including as Director of Major Crimes, Drugs Task Force, Sex Crimes, Economic Crimes, Juvenile Division, and even an Entire Trial Division
- Certified criminal trial attorneys
- A track record of success spanning decades throughout the state
A New Jersey internet criminal offense attorney on our staff is available 24/7 to discuss your case in a free initial consultation. Call us at your convenience at 877-450-8301 for the legal assistance you deserve. We also encourage you to check out our google reviews for added before contacting our defense lawyers.
What Does the Term “Internet” Crime or Criminal Offense Mean?
In order to properly answer this question, we must start by defining the term “internet”. The internet is a network or connection that allows individuals to communicate, retrieve information, and conduct commerce by virtue of the interconnection of commuters, smartphones, and other electronic devices. Almost every private, public, academic, business, and government entity participates in the network and this translates into a virtually endless range of opportunities for criminal activities. Some of the more common forms of online crime involve offenses such as:
- Financial fraud. There are many forms of criminal charge involving fraud or deception online such as credit card theft and fraud, identity theft, data and email hacking to obtain personal and other valuable information, ransomware, forged or faked communications, or devices such as fraudulent wire and electronic payments of money or transfers of property. and spoofing in order to trick individuals into engaging in bogus transactions.
- Child Pornography
- Cybersex trafficking. When individuals use the internet for sex trafficking, live screaming, or uploading of sexual acts involving rape, exploitation, or coercion of actors, it is referred to as cybersex trafficking.
- Luring. Individuals can utilize the internet to build relationships with other individuals for the purpose of luring them to an area in order to commit a sexual act or other criminal activity. This conduct results in the offense of luring which is discussed in detail by clicking here.
- Cyber Stalking. The internet is so advanced that it often allows an individual to track the location and activities of an individual, principally through social media such as Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram. If these network components are utilized in order to overly intrude into someone’s activities, to harass, defame, slander/libel, make threats, or similar activities, this conduct rises to the level of a criminal offense termed “cyberstalking”.
- Drug Trafficking. Whether it is through the use of the dark web or more direct communication, distributing controlled dangerous substances (“CDS”) without a license to do so results in charges for drug trafficking or drug distribution. The grading and penalties for charges of this nature are discussed in more detail on our drug distribution page.
- Sex assault & Endangering the Welfare of a Child. It might sound odd or farfetched that someone could commit a sexual assault online but it is true. This typically occurs in the context of an adult persuading a minor to commit some type of sexual act on themself (e.g. masturbating) over the internet. When the conduct or interaction falls short of self-penetration but nevertheless involves “debauching the morals” of a child through sexual conduct, the resulting offense is endangering the welfare of a child. Either of these forms of internet offense results in the possibility of years in prison, registration under Megan’s Law, and Parole Supervision for Life. offense
- Hacking. The term hacking refers to unauthorized access to a computer system or its data. There are generally three types of individuals who engage in hackings: (1) white hat hackers who are security experts and professionals; (2) black hat hackers whose motivation is to engage in the illegal use of computer data or systems; and (3) grey hat hackers that use data and systems for both legitimate and unlawful purposes.
- Cyber Harassment
- Sexting. There is nothing illegal about sexting between consenting adults but this conduct can result in charges where sexually explicit messages, images, or videos are sent to someone without their consent. Sexting can also trigger criminal charges where the recipient is a minor, incompetent, or otherwise lacks the capacity to consent.
Who Typically Prosecutes Internet Crimes in New Jersey?
While it is possible to be charged federally with an internet-based criminal offense, for example, as the result of a case filed with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, the vast majority of complaints and indictments for cybercrimes in New Jersey are at the state level. This makes sense since almost every county prosecutor’s office has a unit whose primary focus is computer crimes. The Office of the Attorney General also maintains three groups that target this type of criminal offense: (1) the Cyber Crimes Unit which investigates “high-tech computer crimes”, (2) the Digital Technology Investigations Unit of the State Police whose focus is “investigations of offenders that utilize computers and computer technology for the purpose of exploiting children”; and (3) the New Jersey State Police Cyber Crimes Unit that conducts and assists in investigations involving a computer, social media or email intrusion, data theft, online ID theft, account hijacking and several other pedigrees of this type of offense. The existence of all of these agencies makes it possible for you to face a state prosecution filed by either the Attorney General or a specific County Prosecutor.
Is An Internet Crime A Misdemeanor or Felony?
Criminal charges stemming from misuse of the internet are almost always felonies. What this means is that you will face indictment and conviction for a crime of the fourth, third or second degree at the County Superior Court if you have been charged with a crime stemming from online activities. Harassment is probably the only variety of internet crime that has the potential to fall outside this range and result in a misdemeanor charge (i.e. disorderly persons offense) prosecuted in a local municipal court.
What Are The Penalties For A NJ Internet Offense?
The most serious variety of internet offense is one that is a first-degree crime. Examples of charges falling within this category include the production of child pornography, possession/distribution of 100,000 or more images of child pornography, or a computer crime resulting in: (1) a substantial disruption or impairment of public service to 10 or more structures, lasting 2 or more hours, that creates a risk of death or bodily injury; (2) damages exceeding $250,000; or (3) significant bodily injury to any person. The penalties for a first-degree internet crime include a fine of up to $200,000 and 10-20 years in prison.
Although the penalties for a second-degree internet crime are less severe, they are nevertheless significant. You will face 5-10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000 if you are convicted for a second-degree crime such as identity theft, luring, or credit card fraud involving losses that are $75,000 or more.
Most internet crimes fall within the next grade of offense, namely, a third-degree crime. Common third-degree internet crimes include cyber stalking and cyber harassment, sexting, and computer hacking. A conviction for this form of online offense carries up to 5 years in prison and a fine that can reach $15,000.
Are There Diversion Programs That Allow You To Avoid A Conviction For A Online Offense? New Jersey has a program designed to allow first-time offenders to avoid a conviction for an indictable crime of the third or fourth degree and it is called Pretrial Intervention (“PTI”). More serious internet crimes of the second or first degree are ineligible for a diversion via PTI absent consent by the prosecutor.
Defending an NJ Internet Criminal Charge
The attorneys at our firm have considerable experience representing clients charged with online misconduct including child pornography, internet fraud, cyberharassment, identity theft, money laundering, and other offenses of this nature. The areas of defense we concentrate on, include:
- Attacking the Evidence. One of the primary areas for defense in an internet case is dissecting the evidence to eliminate the proof of guilt or, at a minimum, raise reasonable doubt. For example, the state often utilizes an IP address trail to corroborate involvement by the accused. We utilize not only computer forensics but other means to prevent the prosecutor from satisfying his burden of proof.
- Search & Seizure Violations. In order for law enforcement to gain access to cell phones, data records, email accounts, computers, and other items to which individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy, there generally has to be a search warrant. We scrutinize affidavits and other evidence utilized by the police to obtain a warrant so that seizure of the information can be constitutionally invalidated.
- Third-Party Accountability. Frequently, there are third parties who also have the potential for being the person(s) responsible for committing the online offense. A good example of where this can come into play is where multiple parties had access to a computer or system.
- Conduct Was Authorized. Let’s face it, the motivation for filing charges can be both genuine and malicious. There are certainly instances where charges are trumped up after the fact although an employee or other person accused of an internet crime was authorized to commit the conduct complained of. Our attorneys make sure that the truth is uncovered so that a conviction is avoided.
- Statute of Limitation. The law imposes time limits for bringing criminal charges. When the prosecutor fails to file a case within the related statute of limitation, it is barred. The lawyers on our team will raise this defense to overcome a charge that has been brought out-of-time.
- Defendant Is Innocent. It may be that the accused is innocent. You need a skilled and committed attorney at your side to successfully defend your innocence. This is precisely what our firm will accomplish on your behalf.
- Diversions Programs. There are several programs that can be utilized to allow an individual to avoid the penalties that would otherwise apply under the law. One of the programs, PTI, has already been discussed. Drug Court, Military Diversion, and Mental Health Diversion are several other options in this regard.
If you have been arrested or charged with any type of Internet crime, exercise your right to remain silent, and contact us to learn more about your potential defenses.
NJ Internet Offense Defense Lawyers
Jonathan F. Marshall or another NJ criminal defense lawyer at the firm is well equipped to defend whatever online offense you may be facing with decades of experience to put into action. To discuss all of the facts of your case and obtain sound advice from a highly knowledgeable attorney, call us at 1-877-450-8301. Initial consultations are always free of charge so do not hesitate to contact us for the assistance you need.
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