Larceny is the unlawful taking and carrying away of personal property belonging to another person with the intent to permanently deprive. In California, accessing a computer or using it without permission is a form of larceny.

How Does California Define Using or Accessing a Computer or Network without Permission?

In California, the use or access of a computer or network without permission is simply defined. It’s a crime to knowingly access a computer network, computer, or computer system without the permission of the owner.

What If I Didn’t Physically Use the Computer, but Had Unlawful Access?

Even if you did not access the computer physically and in-person, the charge still applies. In this case, access to the computer can also be done remotely.

What if I Accessed the Network to Find Information, Can I Be Charged?

Yes. It’s illegal to access the network or computer to do any of the following:

  • Alter information
  • Obtain information
  • Destroy data 
  • Use the data on the computer

Can I Be Charged If I Let My Friend Access My Work Computer?

Yes. Under California law, giving someone access to a network, computer, or computer system without the owner’s permission is a crime. Unlawful access also includes giving a person a password.

Can I Be Charged with Accessing a Computer and Another Type of Criminal Charge?

Yes. If a person accessed the computer with the intention to commit another crime, more criminal charges could apply. For example, if someone accessed a computer network for unlawful financial gain, then theft is a possible additional charge.

How Much Time Can I Get for Accessing a Computer or Network?

Depending on the facts of the case, a person can be charged with a misdemeanor or felony. A misdemeanor conviction is up to one year in jail, probation, and/or fines. If a felony conviction, it’s up to three years in prison.

Can a Lawyer Help Me with My Criminal Charge?

Yes, It’s in your best interest to talk with a California lawyer about this charge. They can help you understand your charge and start building a defense.