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NY Penal Law § 156.25: Computer tampering in the third 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. Under New York Penal Law § 156.25 you have committed the crime of computer tampering in the third 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, and you also:

  1. Do so with the intent to commit a felony,
  2. Have been previously convicted of an offense involving a computer or a theft of services crime involving avoiding the payment for the use of a computer,
  3. Intentionally alter or destroy computer material, or
  4. Intentionally alter or destroy computer data or a computer program and the damages exceed $1,000.

Ben hacked into the local telephone company's computer system on a bet. He then shut off the telephone service of 10 customers. Ben could be prosecuted for computer tampering in the third degree. The fact that Ben had accessed the company's computer system and caused the system to shut off the service of several customers would be enough to show that Ben altered the computer 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
  4. Theft of services: New York Penal Law § 165.15

According to the computer tampering statute, a defense to this charge would be that you reasonably believed that you had authorization to alter or destroy the computer data. Another defense would be that it was not you who altered or destroyed the material. For example, if the prosecutor's case is based on evidence that the person access the computer from an IP address owned by you, if someone else used that IP address without your knowledge or without your permission to alter or destroy material on another computer, the prosecutor may have a difficult time convincing a court that you are guilty.


Computer tampering in the third degree is a Class E felony. This means that if you are convicted the maximum prison sentence that you could receive is 4 years. Your sentence could also include a probation term of 5 years as well as a substantial fine.

New York Penal Law § 156.25: Computer Tampering in the Third Degree

A person is guilty of computer tampering in the third degree when he commits the crime of computer tampering in the fourth degree and: 1. he does so with an intent to commit or attempt to commit or further the commission of any felony; or 2. he has been previously convicted of any crime under this article or subdivision eleven of § 165.15 of this chapter; or 3. he intentionally alters in any manner or destroys computer material; or 4. he intentionally alters in any manner or destroys computer data or a computer program so as to cause damages in an aggregate amount exceeding one thousand dollars.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

If you or a loved one are being investigated for computer tampering in the third degree, it is important to take the investigation seriously. If you are convicted you could end up in prison for up to 4 years and you may be required to pay a stiff fine. 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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