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NY Penal Law § 156.20: Computer tampering in the fourth degree

Unlawful access of computers is defined as illegally accessing a computer or computer network, or allowing another person to have access. Unauthorized access of a computer can include a number of different activities including figuring out another person's password and using it to access that person's computer, giving a password to another person who does not have authorization to access the computer, hacking into someone's computer via the internet, or pretending to be another person in order to access computer services that would otherwise not be available to you. If you access a computer without authorization and then you alter or destroy computer data, you would have committed the crime of computer tampering. There are 4 different computer tampering crimes in the New York criminal code. The specific charge that you will face largely depends on your prior criminal history, the amount of damage you cause, and your reason for altering or destroying the computer data. Computer tampering in the fourth degree is the least serious computer tampering charge. Under New York Penal Law § 156.20 you have committed the crime of computer tampering in the fourth degree if you use or access a computer, computer service, or computer network without authorization and you intentionally alter or destroy computer data or a computer program of another person.


Joanna has a 4.0 GPA and is on track to get into the college of her choice. During the first semester of her junior year in high school, Joanna struggled in her honors math class. She was going to receive a C. While Joanna was committed to continue working hard and even taking a couple of summer courses to help raise her GPA, her mother had another idea. Unbeknownst to Joanna her mom, who was also a computer expert, hacked into the school's computer and changed Joanna's grade. Joanna's mom could be prosecuted for computer tampering in the fourth degree because without authorization she accessed a computer and she altered the data.

Related Offenses
  1. Unauthorized use of a computer: N.Y. Pen. Law § 156.05
  2. Computer trespass: N.Y. Pen. Law § 156.10
  3. Criminal possession of computer related material: N.Y. Pen. Law § 156.35

The prosecutor would have a difficult time moving forward with a case against you if you have evidence that someone else used your computer without your knowledge or without your permission to alter or destroy material on another computer.


Computer tampering in the fourth degree is a class A misdemeanor. This means that if you are convicted the maximum prison sentence that you could receive is 1 year. Your sentence could also include a probation term of 3 years as well as a substantial fine.

New York Penal Law § 156.20: Computer Tampering in the Fourth Degree

A person is guilty of computer tampering in the fourth degree when he or she uses, causes to be used, or accesses a computer, computer service, or computer network without authorization and he or she intentionally alters in any manner or destroys computer data or a computer program of another person.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

Because computer tampering in the fourth degree is a misdemeanor and not a felony, you may not be inclined to take the charge seriously. However, if you are convicted you could end up in prison for up to a year and you may be required to pay a stiff fine. In addition, you will have a criminal record. The staff at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates has years of experience successfully defending clients in New York criminal courts who have been charged with computer crimes as well as grand larceny, embezzlement, and other white collar crimes. Contact us at 800.696.9529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We serve those accused of larceny in the following locations: the Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Nassau County, Queens, Staten Island, Suffolk County and Westchester County.

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