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Computer Crimes

NCJ Number
American Criminal Law Review Volume: 49 Issue: 2 Dated: Spring 2012 Pages: 443-488
Chris Kim; Barrie Newberger; Brian Shack
Date Published
46 pages

This review of Federal, State, and international developments in computer-related criminal law defines computer crimes and discusses related constitutional and jurisdictional issues; Federal approaches to the enforcement and prosecution of computer crimes; State strategies for combating computer crime; and international approaches to regulating computer crimes.


The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) broadly defines computer crime as "any violations of criminal law that involve a knowledge of computer technology for their perpetration, investigation, or prosecution." Because of the diversity of computer-related offenses, a narrower definition would be inadequate. DOJ divides computer-related crimes into three categories. Under one category, a computer is the "object" of a crime. This category refers primarily to the theft of computer hardware or software. Under the second category of computer crime, the computer is the "subject" of a crime. This category of computer-related crime encompasses any attempt to interfere with the lawful services and activities provided by computers and their servers. Under the third category of computer-related crime, the computer is the "instrument" used to commit traditional crimes, which include identity theft, child pornography, copyright infringement, and mail or wire fraud. Another section of the article addresses general constitutional issues related to Federal and State statutes, with attention to the rights mandated under the first and fourth amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Issues in Federal and State jurisdiction over computer-related crimes are also discussed, with attention to the content and case law on Federal and State statutes and enforcement related to computer crime. Defenses and penalties related to computer crime are also addressed. Given the global sphere of computer networks and services, international approaches to computer crime are also discussed. The article notes that although a number of differences exist, there are significant areas of convergence in nations' legislation. 428 notes