Pursuant to the Cal. Penal Code, it is a crime for a person to access another’s computer or computer network without permission; copy, take or delete data from another’s computer; or to use another’s computer services without permission. If a harasser takes intimate material from a victim’s computer without permission or if the harasser uses a victim's email account, without permission, to send the intimate images, then the harasser may be prosecuted for computer crime under Cal. Penal Code § 502.
b. Text of the Statute
“(a) It is the intent of the Legislature in enacting this section to expand the degree of protection afforded to individuals, businesses, and governmental agencies from tampering, interference, damage, and unauthorized access to lawfully created computer data and computer systems. The Legislature finds and declares that the proliferation of computer technology has resulted in a concomitant proliferation of computer crime and other forms of unauthorized access to computers, computer systems, and computer data […] .
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(c) Except as provided in subdivision (h), any person who commits any of the following acts is guilty of a public offense:
(1) Knowingly accesses and without permission alters, damages, deletes, destroys, or otherwise uses any data, computer, computer system, or computer network in order to either (A) devise or execute any scheme or artifice to defraud, deceive, or extort, or (B) wrongfully control or obtain money, property, or data.
(2) Knowingly accesses and without permission takes, copies, or makes use of any data from a computer, computer system, or computer network, or takes or copies any supporting documentation, whether existing or residing internal or external to a computer, computer system, or computer network.
(3) Knowingly and without permission uses or causes to be used computer services.
(4) Knowingly accesses and without permission adds, alters, damages, deletes, or destroys any data, computer software, or computer programs which reside or exist internal or external to a computer, computer system, or computer network.
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(6) Knowingly and without permission provides or assists in providing a means of accessing a computer, computer system, or computer network in violation of this section.
(7) Knowingly and without permission accesses or causes to be accessed any computer, computer system, or computer network.
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(9) Knowingly and without permission uses the Internet domain name of another individual, corporation, or entity in connection with the sending of one or more electronic mail messages, and thereby damages or causes damage to a computer, computer system, or computer network[…].
(e)(1) In addition to any other civil remedy available, the owner or lessee of the computer, computer system, computer network, computer program, or data who suffers damage or loss by reason of a violation of any of the provisions of subdivision (c) may bring a civil action against the violator for compensatory damages and injunctive relief or other equitable relief. Compensatory damages shall include any expenditure reasonably and necessarily incurred by the owner or lessee to verify that a computer system, computer network, computer program, or data was or was not altered, damaged, or deleted by the access. For the purposes of actions authorized by this subdivision, the conduct of an unemancipated minor shall be imputed to the parent or legal guardian having control or custody of the minor, pursuant to the provisions of Section 1714.1 of the Civil Code.
(2) In any action brought pursuant to this subdivision the court may award reasonable attorney’s fees.
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(4) In any action brought pursuant to this subdivision for a willful violation of the provisions of subdivision (c), where it is proved by clear and convincing evidence that a defendant has been guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice as defined in subdivision (c) of Section 3294 of the Civil Code, the court may additionally award punitive or exemplary damages."1
Research is ongoing.
d. Practice Pointer
Cal. Penal Code § 502 appears to be the state law equivalent of the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (18 U.S.C. § 1030).
- 1. Cal. Penal Code § 502 (Deering 2011).