What Are Federal Internet Crimes?

man with hood up typing on dark computer with 1's and 0's in the background

Whether it feels like it or not, your online activity is monitored and recorded. Private browsers are not as private as one might like. The internet allows for a wealth of opportunity, whether for learning, entertainment, or crime. In some cases, online crimes may be punishable by federal law. Let’s discuss these serious cases.

Examples of Federal Internet Crimes

It’s important to note that these offenses are not always charged at the federal level. Some may be handled by state or local law enforcement agencies and courts. However, these examples are most likely to be elevated to federal offenses.

Child Pornography

Child pornography is the unlawful photographing, recording, downloading, or distributing of sexual content involving a minor. This is one of the most serious charges you can face.

This offense comes with a mandatory minimum sentence of at least five years in prison. Additionally, this sex crime requires that the offender registers as a sex offender upon conviction.

Fraud Crimes

Numerous types of fraud crimes may be committed online.

  • Bank fraud
  • Mortgage fraud
  • Credit card fraud

One overarching term used to describe all types of fraud crimes involving the internet is wire fraud. Wire fraud may also involve the use of the phone, text messages, radio, or any type of interstate communication device. Any wire fraud offense spanning multiple states could be prosecuted as a federal crime. For example, an e-mail phishing scam targeting users across the United States.

Drug Trafficking

Many people are unaware that this is an offense that can happen online. However, drug trafficking does occur on the dark web. The dark web is a side of the Internet that is only accessible with specific software and is kept extremely private. On these highly protected browsers, individuals may make drug trafficking arrangements.

You may be familiar with Silk Road, one of the first examples of the illegal market for drugs online.

Identity Theft

The Internet holds a lot of personal information for all of us. This also makes it easy for identification to be stolen when there is a breach or hack. Individuals may commit identity theft for numerous reasons.

  • To open fraudulent accounts
  • To open credit lines, make purchases, and never make payments
  • To obtain someone else’s benefits

Additionally, identity theft may be committed in order to commit a separate crime using the false identity. This is called aggravated identity theft.

Federal Internet Crime Penalties

The potential penalties for these offenses vary depending on the type of case and the specific details.

Some factors that may influence sentencing include:

  • Does the crime have a mandatory minimum sentence?
  • Does the defendant have a criminal history?
  • Was the defendant on probation or released on bail at the time of the offense?
  • Does the defendant qualify for any alternative sentencing?
  • Does the defendant appear remorseful?
  • What harm was done as a result of the offense?

The answers to these questions will likely play a role in the final sentence.

Defending Against Internet Crime Charges

There are numerous defense strategies commonly used for cases of online crime.

  • Lack of intent: You may be able to argue that you had no intent to violate the law with your online activity. For example, accidentally downloading illegal pornography.
  • Mistaken identity: It’s possible that online activity conducted using your name, accounts, or usernames was illegal - but that it wasn’t you behind the screen.
  • Illegal evidence: You could argue that the evidence used in the case was collected illegally. When this is true, your attorney can help fight for the evidence to be suppressed. When the suppression is successful, the prosecution's odds of getting a conviction decrease substantially.

Working with a defense attorney is the best way to identify which defense is the best fit for your case. If you are facing serious federal online crime charges, contact a defense attorney as soon as possible.

Southern Oregon Federal Crimes Defense

As soon as you are aware of a federal case against you, contact The Law Office of Justin Rosas. We have helped numerous clients facing federal internet charges receive reduced sentences or have their cases dismissed entirely. We want to help you too. Call us at (541) 933-5972 to get started with our Medford criminal defense team today.