Following a conviction for a federal cybercrime charge in Washington, DC the next step will be to go to sentencing where a person’s punishment will be determined. The sentencing step of a federal case is very important and as a result it is imperative that those facing cybercrime charges know what exactly they are facing. With this in mind, the following are factors that can come into play during federal sentencing and what kind of penalties one may face. For more specific information regarding your case, call and schedule a consultation with a DC federal cybercrime lawyer today.
The United States Sentencing Guidelines cover sentencing in all federal cases. However these guidelines are not mandatory. In a cybercrime case, a probation officer will look at the sentencing guidelines and will analyze them in terms of the particular scenario that is presented.
There can be any number of scenarios in a cybercrime case that would bring different aspects of the guidelines into play. For example, in an identity-theft case where someone has either been found guilty of or has pled guilty to stealing the identity of thousands of people, the number of victims becomes an enhancement to the guidelines. Each person whose identity was taken is potentially a victim, so that enhancement can drive the result upwards.
The United States Sentencing Commission has recently amended the victim enhancement guideline to increase the number of victims involved that are required to trigger a guideline enhancement. That is one way the guidelines come into play in a cybercrime context.
Another way would be if there were a group of people engaged in the conduct, being a leader or an organizer could potentially enhance or raise the guideline level. Someone who is not a leader, just a very small player, could have a reduction in their sentencing guideline level. There is also the question of loss amount. The dollar amount drives potential sentences in the federal sentencing guidelines.
Unlawful access of a computer carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, but a lot of times in a cybercrime context you will be charged with wire fraud, which has a maximum penalty of twenty years in prison. There is no mandatory minimum sentence on those charges. However, if you are charged with aggravated identity theft, there is a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison, so it is important to understand from the outset that your sentencing is affected by what you do in these cases.
The United States Attorney’s Office, which is an arm of United States Department of Justice, prosecutes federal cybercrimes in Washington, D.C.
There has been a drastic increase in the number of online-child-pornography prosecutions. In the past few years there has been a huge upswing in those prosecutions. There has also been a nationwide increase in prosecution of the unlawful access of computers.
We predict that the major change in cybercrime enforcement over time will be more volume of cases. As people become more dependent on the internet and engage in more online activities, you are going to see more criminal prosecutions and more attempts to enforce laws.