The vast majority of business and communication now take place electronically, using the internet. This means that more and more of these “cybercrimes” and investigations occur in this data-driven electronic world. Paul Kish is a criminal defense lawyer who has handled hundreds of these matters, in Atlanta and throughout the United States. Anyone being investigated or prosecuted for a cybercrime or a crime that happened on the internet needs the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
Paul handled what was one of the first “computer hacking” cases ever done in federal court, back in the early 1990’s. Technology and the laws have both changed significantly since that early case, but some matters remain the same.
First, it is important to know how investigators start looking at internet-based crimes. Sometimes, law enforcement officials are monitoring various networks, acting almost like fishermen throwing their nets into a river to see what they catch. Other matters arise when a person or business calls law enforcement after realizing that an intruder obtained access to their materials. Still other situations happen when employees of the government or large businesses are accused of improperly accessing or disseminating private or crucial information found within the company’s networks. In all of these situations, an experienced criminal defense lawyer knows that he or she must first look to how the government obtained its evidence. Sometimes, they got a search warrant that was not done properly. The law in this area is changing rapidly, and the courts are grappling with how to match up the 18th Century concepts enshrined in our Bill of Rights with the digital world where just about any thought or image can be disseminated worldwide without our permission. Other times, agents engaged in conduct that is otherwise improper. In other situations, the investigators focused on the employee or remote “hacker” without justification.
The second thing to know about internet crimes is that the penalties are drastically more severe than that first computer hacking case Paul handled more than 25 years ago. Computer sex crimes, like possession of child pornography, sexual abuse or child molestation almost always begin with mandatory minimum penalty structures. The penalties in federal court are often made more severe based on enhancements found in the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Furthermore, most sex crimes on the internet also come with lifetime registry as a sex offender, and the possibility that the Court will have to impost a punitive restitution order. Most economic crimes committed electronically are also punished more harshly than the same activity if it was done in person.
A third important aspect of internet criminal investigations and prosecutions is that the evidence can be overwhelming. We all seem to have multiple computers, but few of us realize the mountains of information hiding inside our desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone. Any lawyer handling these cases needs to have significant experience with how such information is stored, retrieved and whether it can or cannot be used in court. Paul regularly works with some of the finest forensic computer examiners in the country when working on his client’s cases. The lawyer handling such matters needs much more than a rudimentary level of knowledge as to how computers operate, how various networks store and make files available, and how forensic investigators go about their job of evaluating this data for use in court proceedings.
There are multiple defenses when a client is facing one of these internet crimes. In child pornography cases, Paul will first make sure that the images or videos actually fall within the stringent definition of this crime: does the item truly depict a child and is the activity the sort prohibited by law. Next, he will verify that the offending material was obtained both knowingly and willingly by his client. There are many cases where the prosecution either failed to show or gave up when it became clear that the person under investigation was trying to delete the child pornography found on their computer. Paul has handled other cases where outsiders obtained access to an individual computer or network, demonstrating that the person under investigation might not have been the one who engaged in the illegal conduct. In some unauthorized computer access cases it is important to show that multiple individuals could have been the person who got into the otherwise confidential materials. Each case is different and requires an attorney well-schooled in these complex matters.
Anyone who is under investigation or being prosecuted for an internet crime needs to hire experienced legal counsel. Paul has been handling these mattes for close to three decades, both in Atlanta and throughout the country. Please feel free to contact him if you would like to discuss your situation.