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What Are The Penalties For Using A Computer To Commit A Crime In Michigan?

by | Jun 20, 2022 | Criminal Law |

 

Using a computer, computer system, computer program or computer network to commit a crime is a separate criminal offense in Michigan.  A person can be charged with using a computer to commit a crime in addition to the underlying offense.  For example, if someone sends threatening and harassing messages to someone else using an email account on their computer, then he or she can be charged with the criminal offense of stalking and the criminal offense of using a computer to commit a crime, even if it is the exact same act.  A conviction can result in substantial fines, probation or even incarceration in jail or prison.

 

USING A COMPUTER TO COMMIT A CRIME UNDER MCL 750.145d.

A person shall not use the internet or a computer, computer program, computer network, or computer system to communicate with any person for the purpose of doing any of the following:

  • Committing, attempting to commit, conspiring to commit, or soliciting another person to commit conduct proscribed under MCL 750.145a (accosting, enticing or soliciting a child for immoral purpose), MCL 750.145c (possession of child sexually abusive material), MCL 750.157c (recruiting, inducing, soliciting, or coercing minor to commit felony), MCL 750.349 (kidnapping), MCL 750.350 (leading, taking, carrying away, decoying, or enticing away child under 14), MCL 750.520b (criminal sexual conduct in the first degree), MCL 750.520c (criminal sexual conduct in the second degree), MCL 750.520d (criminal sexual conduct in the third degree), MCL 750.520e (criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree), MCL 750.520g (assault with intent to commit criminal sexual conduct), and MCL 722.675 (distributing sexually explicit matter to minor). MCL 750.145d(1)(a).
  • Committing, attempting to commit, conspiring to commit, or soliciting another person to commit conduct proscribed under MCL 750.411h (stalking) and MCL 750.411i (aggravated stalking). MCL 750.145d(1)(b).
  • Committing, attempting to commit, conspiring to commit, or soliciting another person to commit conduct proscribed under Chapter XXXIII of the Penal Code (crimes involving bombs or explosives), MCL 750.327 (cause death due to explosive), MCL 750.327a (sale of explosives to minors), MCL 750.328 (death due to placing explosives in building), or MCL 750.411a(2) (false report of certain crimes). MCL 750.145d(1)(c).

A person who violates any of these laws is guilty of a crime punishable as follows:

  • “If the underlying crime is a misdemeanor or a felony with a maximum term of imprisonment of less than 1 year, the person is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year or a fine of not more than $5,000.00, or both.” MCL 750.145d(2)(a).
  • “If the underlying crime is a misdemeanor or a felony with a maximum term of imprisonment of 1 year or more but less than 2 years, the person is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 2 years or a fine of not more than $5,000.00, or both.” MCL 750.145d(2)(b).
  • “If the underlying crime is a misdemeanor or a felony with a maximum term of imprisonment of 2 years or more but less than 4 years, the person is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 4 years or a fine of not more than $5,000.00, or both.” MCL 750.145d(2)(c).
  • “If the underlying crime is a felony with a maximum term of imprisonment of 4 years or more but less than 10 years, the person is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 10 years or a fine of not more than $5,000.00, or both.” MCL 750.145d(2)(d).
  • “If the underlying crime is a felony punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years or more but less than 15 years, the person is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 15 years or a fine of not more than $10,000.00, or both.” MCL 750.145d(2)(e).
  • “If the underlying crime is a felony punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of 15 years or more or for life, the person is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 20 years or a fine of not more than $20,000.00, or both.” MCL 750.145d(2)(f).
  • “The court may order that a term of imprisonment imposed under this section be served consecutively to any term of imprisonment imposed for conviction of the underlying offense.” MCL 750.145d(3).
  • “This section does not prohibit a person from being charged with, convicted of, or punished for any other violation of law committed by that person while violating or attempting to violate this section, including the underlying offense.” MCL 750.145d(4).
  • “This section applies regardless of whether the person is convicted of committing, attempting to commit, conspiring to commit, or soliciting another person to commit the underlying offense.” MCL 750.145d(5).
  • “A violation or attempted violation of this section occurs if the communication originates in this state, is intended to terminate in this state, or is intended to terminate with a person who is in this state.” MCL 750.145d(6).
  • “A violation or attempted violation of this section may be prosecuted in any jurisdiction in which the communication originated or terminated.” MCL 750.145d(7).

 

USING A COMPUTER TO COMMIT A CRIME UNDER MCL 752.796

“A person shall not use a computer program, computer, computer system, or computer network to commit, attempt to commit, conspire to commit, or solicit another person to commit a crime.”  MCL 752.796(1).

  • “This section does not prohibit a person from being charged with, convicted of, or punished for any other violation of law committed by that person while violating or attempting to violate this section, including the underlying offense.” MCL 752.796(2).
  • “This section applies regardless of whether the person is convicted of committing, attempting to commit, conspiring to commit, or soliciting another person to commit the underlying offense.” MCL 752.796(3).

A person who violates this law is guilty of a crime punishable as follows:

  • “If the underlying crime is a misdemeanor or a felony with a maximum term of imprisonment of 1 year or less, the person is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year or a fine of not more than $5,000.00, or both.” MCL 752.797(3)(a).
  • “If the underlying crime is a misdemeanor or a felony with a maximum term of imprisonment of more than 1 year but less than 2 years, the person is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 2 years or a fine of not more than $5,000.00, or both.” MCL 752.797(3)(b).
  • “If the underlying crime is a misdemeanor or a felony with a maximum term of imprisonment of 2 years or more but less than 4 years, the person is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 4 years or a fine of not more than $5,000.00, or both.” MCL 752.797(3)(c).
  • “If the underlying crime is a felony with a maximum term of imprisonment of 4 years or more but less than 10 years, the person is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 7 years or a fine of not more than $5,000.00, or both.” MCL 752.797(3)(d).
  • “If the underlying crime is a felony punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years or more but less than 20 years, the person is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 10 years or a fine of not more than $10,000.00, or both.” MCL 752.797(3)(e).
  • “If the underlying crime is a felony punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years or more or for life, the person is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 20 years or a fine of not more than $20,000.00, or both.” MCL 752.797(3)(f).
  • “The court may order that a term of imprisonment imposed under [this section] be served consecutively to any term of imprisonment imposed for conviction of the underlying offense.” MCL 752.797(4).

 

POSSIBLE DEFENSES TO USING A COMPUTER TO COMMIT A CRIME

Prosecutions for using a computer to commit a crime are very difficult to defend against because nearly all activity on computers are being recorded somewhere.  Hard drives possess memory files even if the user thinks the memory is “deleted”, emails and chatroom messages are saved, and browser histories can be stored and retained on networks.  The internet has made it easier than ever to commit crimes, but it has also made it so easy to get caught as well.  However, there may still be defenses available to these crimes:

  • MISTAKEN IDENTITY – With the correct username and password (or even a fake account profile), anyone can impersonate anyone else online and cause mayhem. With a sufficient alibi, it is a defense to show mistaken identity because the defendant’s account was “hacked’ or he was falsely impersonated.
  • COMPUTER FALSELY SEARCHED AND SEIZED – Computer hardware and data may have been searched and seized contrary to the warrant requirement in the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. If there was not a valid exception under the law, a skilled criminal defense attorney may be able to have the evidence suppressed and rendered inadmissible.
  • LACK OF KNOWLEDGE – If a person mistakenly obtains another person’s identifying information or computer files, then he or she may not have the necessary mens rea to be guilty of a crime. Many of these crimes require intent and, if the proof is lacking, the defendant should be acquitted.
  • COERCION OR DURESS – If a person is forced to commit a crime using a computer, he or she may also lack the mens rea for illegal activity because the act is only being done out of undue influence or duress. In these circumstances, criminal liability can be excused.

Don’t wait to aggressively protect your rights in the face of the overwhelming power of the police and prosecutors.  A misdemeanor and felony conviction can destroy your reputation and ruin your life.  You have to get the best legal defense in your corner from the very beginning to ensure the best possible outcome.

If you or a loved one are accused of any crime and need legal representation, then do not hesitate to contact the experienced attorneys at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC for assistance today.

 

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