In the digital age, cybercrime charges are becoming more prevalent around the world. Additionally, given the digital character of cybercrimes and the often complex technological questions, prosecution and defense of cybercrimes can become very complicated. A DC federal cybercrimes lawyer will be able to provide insight and guidance throughout your case proceedings. To speak with our DC federal cybercrimes attorneys, call and schedule an initial consultation.
The most common scenario for a cybercrime is where someone is alleged to be hacking into a computer system. There are numerous scenarios that have made the news. Several years ago someone was prosecuted for copying a large number of files at a university library in Massachusetts, and that was covered by the statute.
Other common scenarios would be breaches of corporate databases with the accompanying theft of a large body of information containing the personally identifiable information of thousands of customers.
You can be charged with a federal cybercrime offense in DC even if you have never been to DC. The federal system is made up of Circuit Courts, which are the appeals courts, and underneath the Circuits are the District Courts. Each state is divided into one or more federal Districts, each with a court. DC has one federal district with one court while a state like Virginia has two federal district and two courts. If the Department of Justice is going to prosecute a cybercrime in federal court, it has to find a nexus or connection to a particular District Court.
In a cybercrime, more than one District Court usually has jurisdiction because the actions and communications over the internet run through servers which are housed in different states. Once it is determined where the communications at issue traveled, the District Court which is going to handle the case can be determined. It does not matter whether the person accused has been to the physical location for that particular District Court, what matters is whether a communication can be connected to that District.
With that said, cybercrime cases are prosecuted as aggressively in Washington, DC or the U.S. District Court in DC as they are prosecuted in other districts.
There could be multiple jurisdictions attached to a charge, depending on from where the information involved was located. For example, if Target Corporation’s information was housed in multiple databases located in different jurisdictions, then there would be potentially multiple jurisdictions where the case could be prosecuted for breaching.
If there was a server in San Diego, California and a server in Alexandria, Virginia from which information was allegedly taken, then the case could be prosecuted in San Diego, which will be the Southern District of California, or in Alexandria, which will be the Eastern District of Virginia. It will be a matter of the various prosecutors in those jurisdictions working it out. There is not a set system to determine where the crime is prosecuted; it is a negotiation between those Districts.
In fact, if someone is in a country with an extradition treaty with the United States and that person is allegedly linked to a cybercrime, they can be prosecuted in the United States and they are often extradited to the United States for prosecution.
What can be unique and make these cases very complex is the technology issues that are involved. For example, you can be prosecuted for being in receipt or in possession of child pornography. Receipt or possession in the pre-internet era meant a person had a hard copy of a picture, drawing, or video in their physical possession or in their house.
In the digital age, the question is, “What does it mean to have an image?” Does it mean having them on a hard drive? Does it include accessing images through various systems like LimeWire? LimeWire allows a person’s hard drive to essentially become a sharing center with other people. Thus, someone can be viewing images of someone else’s hard drive and the hard drives potentially link up through LimeWire. If it is an image on someone else’s server or hard drive, it constitutes possession or receipt of that image even if it never touches your particular hard drive. Those issues in the cybercrime context can make it unique and very complex and interesting to litigate.