Texas residents should avoid these illegal internet searches
A vast majority of Americans are daily internet users. Data in 2020 revealed that there are approximately 2 trillion Google searches per day in the U.S.
Most searches on the internet are innocent and people don’t think twice about the implications their internet surfing may have. But if your internet search is considered illegal, you could find authorities on your doorstep and face fines or possible prison time.
What’s considered an illegal internet search?
The internet is an entirely digital environment but it is similar to the real world in which crime exists. States may differ in how they define “illegal” online content, but federal law is quite clear on what not to search on Google. This includes:
- Images or video of child sexual abuse or exploitation
- Content that promotes terrorism or advocates terrorist acts
- Content that promotes, incites or instructs crime or violence
- Video or images of real violence, cruelty and criminal activity
Certain searches on the internet can violate federal law, state law or both. It is important to know what is considered illegal on the internet and what the consequences might be for violating the law.
There are numerous federal statutes that define internet crime, a few of which include:
- The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998
- The No Electronic Theft Act of 1997
- The Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996
- The Communications Decency Act of 1996
- The Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986
What searches are illegal in Texas?
In addition to federal laws, the Texas Penal Code outlines internet crimes, some of which include:
- Solicitation of a minor
- Hiring a person for illicit or criminal purposes
- Online harassment
- Breach of computer security
- Unlawful decryption
Could I be arrested for an internet crime?
The internet allows for some anonymity, which can foster online criminal activity. Internet crime is evolving all the time and so are the laws which govern it. Criminal prosecutors often seek maximum sentencing for cases of internet crime, especially those classified as online sex crimes. Reputations and lives can be destroyed by the mere implication of being involved in any sex crime and a strong criminal defense lawyer will be needed in such cases.
Does the law take intent into consideration? If a person conducts a search and stumbles onto an illegal internet site, can they be held responsible? They may not have intended to search for such content. What happens to an author doing research for a novel or a student researching crime?
Some internet security experts say that the “drive-by downloading” of illegal content happens to innocent internet searchers all the time. Hackers are able to infiltrate websites and malware can easily be downloaded with illegal content onto a person’s computer.
Since 2002, the FBI has been experimenting with the same drive-by hacking programs in order to identify users who attempt to use criminal websites.
What to do if you’re accused of an internet crime
In 2019, the FBI reported that they receive 900 complaints of internet crime each day. The penalties for internet crimes vary in severity. In Texas, fines for conviction of an internet crime can range from $2,000 to $10,000. Incarceration upon conviction ranges from 180 days in jail to 5 years or life in prison.
In other words, internet crime is no longer considered a “soft” crime such as minor misdemeanors.
If you are accused of an internet crime, you should be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Law enforcement needs a warrant to search your home and property, and you do not have to answer any questions without your lawyer present. You do not have to give them permission to search your property. If you voluntarily surrender evidence, this disregards the need for them to obtain a search warrant.
Internet crime cases are unique and can be complex. In some cases, the accused may actually be a victim of identity theft, hacking, theft of Wi-Fi or other third-party attacks.
What defense can be used in Texas computer crime cases?
There are several strategies an experienced internet crimes lawyer in Texas will use to defend your case, such as:
- Lack of knowledge. Some internet crimes require the defendant to have known and intended to do what they did in order to be charged and convicted. Many cases reveal the defendant was unaware they had committed an activity that was fraudulent.
- Coercion. A defendant may have been forced to commit a crime under duress or threat of harm to themselves or their loved ones.
- Identity theft. Each year, there are more than 14 million victims of internet identity theft. Perhaps your online information or profiles were compromised, resulting in illegal online behavior.