Review of Federal Online Crimes
A lot of offenses are being committed online where people are getting other people's identity through scams. They get their information or they convince the people to send them money. They send them fake checks or use fake bank accounts.
Thousands of dollars are being fleeced from innocent victims and prosecutors are on the lookout for these types of crimes, trying to prove them. Other types of crimes that can be committed online are child pornography or exploiting children. A lot of times, police will pose as minors in chat rooms and other social media venues in order to catch people who are involved in trying to exploit children and trying to have sex with children.
Additional online crimes that I've seen are when people are stealing individual's information from e-mail accounts and various other accounts. I've seen revenge porn where people are going on the Internet and either stealing photographs and videos or taking private photographs and videos of people they used to date and posting those on the Internet.
There are so many different crimes on the Internet right now that law enforcement can barely keep up and that's why they've got special units.
The district attorney's office in downtown Los Angeles has a special cyber-crime unit. All they handle is cyber-crimes. They have experts who can pull information from computers and they execute search warrants. Some of these individuals are hard to catch and these cases are hard to investigate. It takes time, money, manpower, and experts, but law enforcement both at the state and the federal level are slowly catching up and turning the tide in this area.
The global nature of the Internet makes it a lot more difficult to track and figure out where the source of activity is coming from. There are all sorts of devices people can use to try to cloak their identities. Cyber-crime is a huge problem. If you've been caught up in a cyber crime prosecution, you're going to want to get an attorney who has the experience, has handled cases like this before, knows how to defend them, and can get you out of the criminal justice system as fast as possible.
Internet Crimes and Federal Charges
The sophistication level and the amount of time, effort, manpower, and money it takes to investigate an online crime determines whether or not it will be handled federally. If it's going to take a bunch of work, wiretaps, warrants, and experts, the federal government will likely get involved, especially if there's a lot of money involved. If it's a local issue, a lot of money is not involved, and the federal prosecutors don't feel like it's something that's worth their time and effort, then they will let the state prosecutor deal with it.
In a lot of these cases, I see state and federal authorities teaming up and working together in order to prosecute these crimes. Each will play a particular role in the investigative process and even when going to arrest people, it can be a combination of federal authorities and state authorities. Once it's all said and done and the arrest has been made, a decision is made on who is going to prosecute.
The specific charge is going to dictate what the base offense level is according to the federal sentencing guidelines. Then, you've got to look at whether the person has a criminal record because that's going to determine what criminal history category they fall into. Also, there's an enhancement that can apply, depending on how much money is involved.
The state is much more structured and much more like a formula, so you know when you plead guilty to a particular charge exactly what your sentence is going to be. In a federal prosecution, the judge ultimately determines what your sentence is going to be, not the prosecutor.
If federal agents become aware of you committing a crime online and get a warrant, they may come and break down your door to take all your devices and try to take a statement from you. A lot of times, they don't even arrest the person right on the spot because in order to arrest them, they're going to need to go through the evidence that they've seized.
They've got a huge backlog of experts waiting to look at computers and try and put themselves in a position where they can see exactly what the target is doing. Sometimes, it can take months to finish going through a computer.
If someone comes into your house, takes your stuff, takes a statement, and is targeting you for a federal or state investigation, you're going to want to hire an attorney immediately. I get on these cases pre-filing, call the agents, and call the prosecutor. I let him know that I represent you and find out what they're investigating. Then, you've got a buffer, who can guide the case and put you in the best possible position.
We can arrange for your surrender and produce an argument for either bail or some sort of a signature bond or property bond, so we can get you out of custody. When it comes to search warrants that are executed in these type of cases, you're going to want to get an attorney involved as fast as possible and let that attorney start to work for you from the beginning, so that you can do damage control and end up with the best result.
What Makes An Internet Or Cyber Sex Case A Federal Case?
Federal agents can prosecute almost anything they want to, but in order to technically prosecute someone, the federal government must prove that they committed an act involving interstate commerce. If someone is on the internet, then they can reach anywhere in the world, which means interstate commerce is involved. Federal agencies take these types of cases because they have the laboratories and forensic experts necessary in order to examine computers and various other pieces of evidence.
The more pornographic images or videos involved in a case, the more likely it is that federal agents will get involved. If someone only had a few images, then their case would be prosecuted at the state level. If someone is facing this type of charge at the federal level, then they should definitely contact a federal sex crimes attorney who has dealt specifically with internet-based charges.
Any attempt to convince an underage individual to engage in a sexual act is illegal. It is also illegal for someone to meet with an individual who they know is underage or who they reasonably suspect is underage.
Sending or asking for nude pictures from an underage individual can also result in a lot of trouble for someone. Authorities will often pose as minors on sites such as Craigslist in order to entice people to agree to engage in a sexual act, send nude photographs, or meet up in person. If the person agrees to meet up in person, the authorities will be waiting to arrest and prosecute them. If someone finds themselves in this sort of situation, they should contact a criminal defense attorney as quickly as possible in order to begin damage control.
Sexting can be a federal offense if the exchange occurs with someone who is under the age of 18 and if the purpose of the exchange is to become involved with them in a sexual manner. If any photographs are exchanged, then that would certainly qualify as a federal offense.
Federal agents don't usually handle sexting cases unless there is some level of sophistication involved or the exchange occurs across state lines or internationally. Sexting cases that don't involve photographs would probably be passed off to the state government.
If someone had sexual communication with someone who they did not know was underage, then that could be used as a defense. However, pretending to have not known is not a defense. Oftentimes, it will be clear through the communication that a minor was involved. If someone was speaking to an individual who stated that they were underage or if there was reason to believe that the individual was under the age of 18, then that may be grounds for law enforcement to proceed with prosecution; this is true even if the communication occurred on a site that requires all members to be 18 years or older.
What If I Committed a Federal Cybercrime Unknowingly?
Sometimes, people claim they didn't know that what they're doing is illegal. The federal agents usually have evidence that they did know what they were doing. When the federal prosecutors arrest someone for some sort of cybercrime, they know that one of the defenses is going to be ignorance of the law, so they start trying to block that defense from the beginning. They will ask targeted questions to try to incriminate you by putting you on the spot where you don't have time to think or consult with an attorney.
They're going to talk to you about whatever it was that they found which led them to you and they're going to try to get you to admit certain things or deny certain things. You better hire an attorney immediately, give them all the information you know, and let them be the one who talks to the police because the attorney will be careful not to say or do anything that puts you in a worse position.
Prosecutors and investigators know that sometimes, there is more than meets the eye in these cybercrime cases. They realize that they need to look at every angle when it comes to these computer crimes before they actually arrest and try to convict someone. However, you should realize that when they investigate these cases, they're investigating them with an eye towards blocking the potential defense that you did not know what was going on or that someone else put the information on your device.
You've got to be careful what you say and do and get an attorney involved as quickly as possible. You need an attorney who has handled these types of cases before and who knows what to do to help you. When it comes to cybercrimes, the law enforcement officials investigating these cases and the prosecutors they work with are not trying to exonerate you.
They're not trying to get evidence to show that you're innocent. They're trying to get evidence to show that you're guilty. You can't just explain everything to them. They're going to twist things in their favor. It is then too late. Let an attorney decide what information to give and what information not to give. An attorney is much less likely to say or do something that is going to incriminate you.