October 24, 2023 | Ohio Law
Illegal hacking is a serious problem in the United States and worldwide. Hackers are continually finding more creative ways to access our electronic devices, including cell phones. Additionally, the tools hackers use have become more and more difficult to stop as they use sophisticated systems to gain unauthorized access to our electronic devices.
How Does the Law Define Hacking?
Illegal hacking occurs when someone unlawfully:
- Gains access to computers or systems;
- Engages in identity theft by intercepting or misusing electronic transmissions; or;
- Intercepts electronic transmissions intended for someone else.
A government or law enforcement agency may obtain a warrant or other legal authority that allows them to “hack” into cell phones or computers to obtain information or intercept calls and electronic messages. This type of hacking is often called ethical hacking.
However, without legal authority, hacking into someone’s cell phone is illegal in Ohio.
What Laws Make Hacking Cell Phones Illegal in Ohio?
Federal and state laws make the unauthorized access of someone’s cell phone illegal. Laws that could apply include, but are not limited to:
The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA)
The CFAA has expanded since it was enacted in 1986. The law was created to prohibit hacking into computers used by the federal government and American financial institutions.
Today, the CFAA makes it illegal to hack into almost any computer in the United States, including cell phones. It prohibits activities such as extortion, password theft, computer fraud, and unauthorized access to information.
The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA)
The ECPA of 1986 consists of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and the Stored Wire Electronic Communications Act. This federal law protects electronic, wire, and oral communications being made, in transit, or stored on computers. It applies to electronically stored data, emails, and telephone conversations.
The ECPA protects someone from having phone calls, emails, text messages, and instant messages from being accessed without permission. Your data stored in the cloud and social media accounts is protected from hacking. The government needs a special court order, warrant, or subpoena to hack into these accounts to gain information legally.
Ohio Unauthorized Use of Property – Computer, Cable, or Telecommunication Property
Ohio Revised Code §2913.04 makes it illegal for someone to knowingly use or operate another person’s property without the owner’s consent or consent of an authorized person. No person may knowingly gain access to electronic devices, including telecommunication devices and services, without consent. Hacking would almost certainly constitute this type of improper access.
What Are the Penalties for Illegally Hacking Someone’s Phone in Ohio?
The penalties you face depend on the specific charges against you. The punishment for violating federal anti-hacking laws can be severe. You could face at least one year in prison, but some charges carry prison terms of five to ten years.
State anti-hacking laws also have severe penalties. A judge could impose fines and jail time for a violation. The penalties increase if you are convicted of felony hacking in Ohio.
Are There Defenses to Hacking Charges in Ohio?
In Ohio, you may face multiple charges for hacking into someone’s cell phone. In addition to hacking charges, you could also be charged with related crimes. These related offenses could include conspiracy, ID theft, stalking, white-collar crimes, wire fraud, and distributing confidential information.
A Cincinnati criminal defense lawyer can review your case during a free consultation and advise you on your rights and legal defense. Depending on the circumstances of your case, there could be one or more defenses an attorney may use as part of your defense strategy.
Possible defenses to hacking someone’s phone could include:
- You reasonably believed at the time you acted that you were authorized to use or operate the phone.
- You reasonably believed at the time you acted that the owner or person authorized to give consent would authorize your use of the phone.
- The prosecutor does not have evidence proving you knowingly committed the offense (i.e., lack of intent).
- Law enforcement officers violated your constitutional rights by using illegal search and seizure.
- The police have the wrong person because of mistaken identity.
- The victim has made false allegations against you.
An experienced Cincinnati criminal defense attorney investigates the charges against you to gather evidence to fight the charges. The attorney also analyzes the state’s case against you to help you weigh whether a plea bargain is your best option for resolving the charges or if you should take the case to trial.
The best way to help yourself is to not talk to the police without a lawyer present and call an attorney as soon as possible for a free consultation.
Contact the Cincinnati Criminal Defense Attorneys at Suhre & Associates, LLC For Help Today
Suhre & Associates, LLC – Cincinnati
600 Vine Street, Suite 1004
Cincinnati, OH 45202