Federal Cyber Crimes

Our lives have become intertwined with the virtual world in the digital age. Everything from our personal correspondences to sensitive financial information exists in a digital format. However, this reliance on computers also opens up avenues for misuse, leading to the emergence of a new category of crimes: cybercrimes.


These can take many forms, from identity theft to unauthorized access to protected computers, and can have severe penalties under federal and Arizona laws.

Facing charges related to cybercrimes has significant implications and drastic penalties. Having a skilled and experienced defense attorney by your side can influence the outcome of your case. With Josh Kolsrud as your attorney, you can be confident that you will receive the guidance and support needed to fight your charges.


At our firm, we understand the complexities of federal and Arizona laws surrounding cybercrimes. From helping you fully comprehend the charges against you to negotiating with the prosecution, Josh Kolsrud and his team will be there at every stage, ensuring your rights are protected.


❗Interesting statistic: the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center received 791,790 complaints in 2020—an increase of more than 300,000 from the previous year—with reported losses exceeding $4.2 billion. Because of this, the US government has taken drastic measures to convict those accused of committing a crime.


Schedule a free consultation today to discuss your case and discover how we can offer the assistance and support you need in dealing with cybercrime charges.

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Understanding 18 U.S. Code § 1030: The Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA)

18 U.S.C § 1030, often known as the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), is the primary law governing cybercrimes in the United States.


This federal law prohibits various computer-related acts deemed fraudulent or abusive, including unauthorized access to a computer to obtain classified, financial, or damaging information and any intentional transmission of a program, code, or command that causes damage to a protected computer.


Contrary to popular belief, the CFAA isn't just about "hacking" in the conventional sense. It covers a wide range of activities that can, directly or indirectly, harm computer systems or the information within them.


The law is quite broad and has been a subject of criticism and calls for reform. But as it stands, the CFAA remains a potent tool in the arsenal of federal prosecutors.

federal cybercrimes

How Does Arizona Law Intersect with Federal Cybercrime Laws?

While the CFAA is a federal law, it doesn't mean that states don't have their own statutes regarding cybercrimes. In fact, Arizona has a robust set of laws that complement and sometimes overlap with federal legislation. The Arizona Revised Statute 13-2316 deals with computer tampering and unlawful possession of access devices.


At times, this intersection between federal and state laws can create difficulties. For instance, a crime that might seem minor under Arizona law might be viewed more seriously under the CFAA. This complexity underscores the need for a knowledgeable federal criminal defense attorney, especially one familiar with Arizona and federal law, to navigate the intricacies of cybercrime defense.

Types of Cybercrimes Under 18 U.S.C § 1030

Cybercrimes are not a one-size-fits-all category. There are multiple types of cybercrimes under 18 U.S.C § 1030, each with its own specifics. 


The following are different types of cybercrimes with illustrative examples: 


  • Unauthorized Access to a Computer or Computer System: This crime involves accessing a computer system or network without permission. For example, if someone uses another person's login information without their consent to access a private network, this could be considered unauthorized access.

  • Obtaining Information through Unauthorized Access: This crime involves accessing a computer or computer network without authorization to obtain information. An example would be hacking into a corporate database to steal customer data or proprietary information.

  • Unauthorized Access with Intent to Defraud: This involves accessing a protected computer without authorization and with the intent to defraud. An instance of this crime could be hacking into an online bank account intending to transfer funds illegally.

  • Transmitting Harmful Code or Program: This refers to transmitting a code, program, or command that causes harm or damage to a protected computer. An example could be creating and spreading a virus or ransomware that damages or locks out users from their computers or networks.

  • Unauthorized Trafficking in Computer Passwords or Access Codes: This involves illegally selling, distributing, or sharing computer passwords or access codes. For example, selling stolen login credentials on the dark web would fall under this category.

  • Threatening to Cause Damage to a Protected Computer: This involves a threat to cause damage to a protected computer, commonly seen in cases of extortion. For instance, a hacker might threaten to release a destructive virus unless they receive payment.

Understanding the Penalties for Cybercrimes under 18 U.S.C § 1030

The penalties for violations of 18 U.S.C § 1030 can be severe. Depending on the specific violation, the law provides for penalties ranging from fines to lengthy prison sentences.


For instance, unauthorized access to a protected computer resulting in damage could lead to a prison term of up to 20 years if it leads to physical injury or a threat to public health or safety.


Additionally, an individual charged under 18 U.S.C § 1030 can also be held liable for civil damages. This means the victim of the cybercrime can sue the perpetrator for monetary damages, creating an additional layer of potential liability.

Defending against Charges under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

Defending against charges under the CFAA requires an in-depth understanding of both the law and technology.


An experienced federal criminal defense attorney will scrutinize the prosecution's evidence and assertions, challenging their interpretation of what constitutes "unauthorized access" or "damage," and whether the defendant's actions truly meet these definitions.


Moreover, the prosecution must prove the defendant's intent, a crucial element in CFAA charges. If it can be shown the defendant did not knowingly engage in a prohibited act, or that they had no intent to cause damage, it may provide a solid defense.

cybercime penalties

Legal Consequences of Unauthorized Access to Protected Computers

The legal consequences of unauthorized access to protected computers can be severe. Both federal and Arizona law provide for penalties.


Under the CFAA, an individual faces the following penalties:

  • First Offense

    For a first offense involving unauthorized access to a protected computer, individuals can face a maximum prison sentence of up to 1 year.

  • Aggravated Offense

    If the offense involves certain aggravating factors, such as intent to defraud, recklessly causing damage, or affecting critical infrastructure, the maximum prison sentence increases to up to 10 years.

  • Multiple Offenses

    Subsequent offenses or offenses committed for financial gain or with the intent to commit another federal offense can result in a maximum prison sentence of up to 20 years.

Meanwhile, under Arizona law (A.R.S. 13-2316), computer tampering can be classified as a class 3 felony, carrying a sentence of up to 8.75 years for a first offense.


Beyond the legal penalties, such charges can affect a person's reputation, employment prospects, and more. 

The Extraterritorial Application of 18 U.S.C. 1030

One important aspect of 18 U.S.C § 1030 is its extraterritorial application. This means that individuals can be charged under the law for actions that took place outside of the United States.


It's not unheard of for a person residing in Arizona to be charged under this law for activities that impacted a protected computer located in another country. The global nature of the internet means that cybercrimes often cross-national borders, and the law has evolved to reflect this reality.

When Does a Cybercrime Become a Federal Offense?

The jump from a state-level offense to a federal offense can occur under several circumstances. If the crime involved crossing state lines, used a federal computer system, or had a significant impact on interstate commerce, it could fall under federal jurisdiction.


Moreover, because the CFAA covers any "protected computer," which is broadly defined as any computer used in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce or communication, many cybercrimes can be considered federal offenses.

Case Studies: Significant 18 U.S.C § 1030 Prosecutions in Arizona

Several high-profile cases in Arizona have involved charges under 18 U.S.C § 1030.


For instance, in one case, an individual was convicted for launching a damaging denial-of-service attack against a local police department’s non-emergency phone line, hindering their ability to respond to service calls.


These cases underscore the law's wide reach and the severity of the penalties it carries.

cybercrime in arizona

The Role of Intent in 18 U.S.C § 1030 Offenses

Intent is a critical element in proving an offense under 18 U.S.C § 1030. The prosecution must prove that the defendant acted intentionally and knowingly.


This is not always straightforward, as it can often hinge on technical details about the defendant's knowledge and understanding of the computer system they are accused of misusing. Here, the importance of a skilled defense attorney cannot be overstated.

Navigating the Legal Complexities of Cybercrime Charges

Cybercrime charges involve a unique blend of legal and technical issues. Understanding the intricacies of computer systems, networks, and digital evidence is crucial in building a strong defense.


At the Kolsrud Law Offices, we have the legal expertise and technological knowledge to navigate these complexities, ensuring that you're not overwhelmed by the technicalities of your case.

Protecting Your Rights - The Kolsrud Law Office is Here to Help

Being the subject of a federal cybercrime investigation can be a highly stressful experience. It's crucial to remember that you have rights in this situation.


The Kolsrud Law Office can guide how to respond to investigations, protect your rights, and ensure you don't inadvertently incriminate yourself.


If you find yourself facing cybercrime charges, having a skilled and experienced federal criminal defense attorney at your side can make all the difference.


Don't face this challenge alone, contact the Kolsrud Law Offices today.

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Josh is an expert in both Arizona and federal criminal law, and is ready to put that expertise to work for you.



As a prosecutor, Josh saw far too many defendants lose their livelihood due to poor representation. Josh will always give every client his complete attention and effort

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