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New York Penal Law § 156.27: Computer tampering in the first 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 such as using a keystroke logging program to figure out a password or using legitimate access to use a computer program or computer date in an unauthorized manner. While there are 4 different computer tampering crimes in the New York criminal code, computer tampering in the first degree is the most serious. Under New York Penal Law § 156.27 you have committed the crime of computer tampering in the first 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 the damage exceeds $50,000.


Billy Joe hacked into the computer network of a major wealth management company and altered a program so that communications from clients regarding buying and selling securities and making other types of transactions were interrupted. As a result the wealth management company lost millions of dollars. Because of the amount of loss involved, Bill Joe could be charged with computer tampering in the first degree.

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. This would be a valid defense even if you were wrong. That your belief was reasonable is all that is required under this defense.

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 accessed the computer or computer network from a computer owned by you, if someone else used that computer 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 first degree is a class C felony. This means that if you are convicted the maximum prison sentence that you could receive is 15 years. Your sentence could also include a probation term of 5 years as well as a substantial fine.

New York Penal Law § 156.27: Computer Tampering in the First Degree

A person is guilty of computer tampering in the first degree when he commits the crime of computer tampering in the fourth degree and he intentionally alters in any manner or destroys computer data or a computer program so as to cause damages in an aggregate amount exceeding fifty thousand dollars.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

If you have been arrested for or are being investigated for computer tampering in the first degree, it is imperative that you have experienced representation. 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 1-800-NY-NY-LAW (1-800-696-9529) 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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