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NY Penal Law § 156.26: Computer tampering in the second degree

If you access a computer without authorization and then alter or destroy computer data or a computer program, you would have committed the crime of computer tampering. 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. Under New York Penal Law § 156.26 you have committed the crime of computer tampering in the second 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:

  1. The damages exceed $2,000,
  2. The computer material contains medical records of identifiable people and as a result of the alteration or destruction those people suffer serious physical injury, and you were aware of and disregarded the substantial risk that such serious physical injury may occur.

Valerie, a computer tech, was being sued for breach of contract. Angry about the lawsuit, Valerie hacked into the computer system of the plaintiff's attorney and altered or destroyed 30 documents including pleadings, contracts, memoranda and other types of client work. Much of the work could not be recovered. The attorneys would have to recreate it. Because of the hours that were required to recreate all of the documents, the damage suffered by the firm was $5000. Valerie could be prosecuted for computer tampering in the second degree because of the unauthorized access to the computer system and the amount of damage involved.

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

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 D felony. This means that if you are convicted the maximum prison sentence that you could receive is 7 years. Your sentence could also include a probation term of 5 years as well as a substantial fine.

New York Penal Law § 156.26: Computer Tampering in the Second Degree

A person is guilty of computer tampering in the second degree when he or she commits the crime of computer tampering in the fourth degree and he or she intentionally alters in any manner or destroys: 1. computer data or a computer program so as to cause damages in an aggregate amount exceeding three thousand dollars; or 2. computer material that contains records of the medical history or medical treatment of an identified or readily identifiable individual or individuals and as a result of such alteration or destruction, such individual or individuals suffer serious physical injury, and he or she is aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that such serious physical injury may occur.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

If you or a loved one are being investigated for computer tampering in the second degree, it is imperative that you have experienced representation. If convicted you could end up in prison for up to 7 years and you may be required to pay a substantial 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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