Computer Fraud
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Legal Defences for Computer Fraud Charges in California

Computer fraud is a crime in the State of California under Penal Code 502. It is punishable by 1-3 years in jail, depending on how the crime(s) are charged. However, there are legal defenses one may consider if they are to be tried for charges of computer fraud. Read on to learn about some of the common defenses against crimes under Penal Code 502. If, after reading this article, you have any more questions regarding laws on computer fraud in California, please consider contacting us for more information. 

What Defines Computer Fraud/Internet Crimes?

Crimes under Penal Code 502 are when someone knowingly is accessing, copying, network altering, damaging, deleting, any of the following without permission from an authorized person:

  • data
  • computer networks
  • computers
  • computer systems

Legal Charges for Computer Fraud

Punishment for computer fraud depends on how it is charged. Since computer fraud is considered a "wobbler" offence, it can either be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. In the case of the offense being charged as a misdemeanor, the defendant may only be sentenced up to one-year in jail, whereas if it is charged as a felony, sentences could be as much as three years.

Note, that being charged of crimes under California Penal Code 502 will not result in negative effects, such as deportation given one's immigration status

Defenses for Charges of Computer Fraud

Listed below are some of the more common defenses against charges of computer fraud.

  • No fraudulent behavior was committed
  • The defendant had no knowledge they were unlawfully accessing a computer
  • Consent to access the computer was given
  1. No Fraudulent Behavior

Penal Code 502 makes it illegal to access a computer without consent. Additionally, it is a crime to defraud (deceive someone, often with the intent for monetary gain); therefore, it is a defense that, despite having unlawfully accessed the device, no fraudulent behavior was committed.

  1. No knowledge

Part of the conditions stated in Penal Code 502 is that, in order for computer fraud to have been committed, the person in question must have known that they were accessing a computer without permission. If the person thought that they had permission to access the device, then no knowledge is a reasonable defense to use when being accused of computer fraud.

  1. Consent

Finally, one of the most common defenses is that the accused actually did have consent to access the computer. If they can provide good evidence that permission from a person of authority was granted, then this is a strong defense.


Regardless of the classification of the offense, it is important that you seek the assistance of competent legal counsel to help you best understand your legal defense while identifying an outcome that best minimizes your risk. We here at the H Law group patiently await your call.

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