As technology continues to advance, more and more people commit computer- and internet-based computer- and internet-based crimes. The advent of conveniences such as smartphones has given rise to extreme levels of interconnected relationships and industry but also offers more opportunities for the unscrupulous to cause harm. Also, in some cases, an innocent joke or an attempt to make friends may be perceived wrongly as dangerous or offensive, and if this does occur, it may be necessary for you to defend yourself.
The Law Is Unsettled
Given the relatively sudden rise of digital technology, Illinois law regarding cybercrimes is in near-constant flux. However, it is not uncommon for cybercrimes to have much in common with other offenses already on the books—only that there are committed via another mechanism. For example, a common electronic crime in Illinois is identity theft or fraud. Identity theft has been perpetrated for many years prior to the invention of the internet. Thus, in many respects, it is not always necessary for lawmakers to create a new crime, since existing law can be applied to new methods of committing offenses that have existed for many years.
While the crime in question may have a new look, there is also the question of free speech in cyberspace. This can give rise to many criminal charges due to mistaken intentions or beliefs. Supreme Court jurisprudence—most notably Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union from 1997—holds that, as a general rule, restriction of the internet is not desirable, but, at the same time, one does not have complete, unfettered freedom to say whatever one wishes. The current trend is to accord electronic communications the same level of protection that would be granted to communications in any other medium.
Other electronic crimes have sexual components, which can lead to severe consequences. Perhaps the most common recognized by Illinois law is the offense of indecent solicitation of a child, which, importantly, does not require affirmative steps toward committing sexual acts with a minor, nor does it require the “victim” to actually be a minor. It only requires that the individual believes that the other person in the transaction is a minor. The law states clearly that lack of intent is not a defense, but many people who find themselves entangled with someone posing as a minor online may not be aware of this aspect of the law.
Another set of common offenses in this vein is the assorted infractions associated with distributing explicit photographs of minors. While adults who knowingly distribute such materials may face charges of child pornography or exploitation, what many remain unaware of is that teenagers who engage in “sexting” or other forms of social media sharing of explicit photos may be guilty a crime. Illinois law makes it a crime for a minor to distribute “indecent visual depictions” of another minor, with or without their consent. If found guilty, a minor convicted of such an offense may be subject to a petition for adjudication and placed under adult supervision.
Contact Us for Assistance
While being accused of cybercrimes can be terrifying and confusing, it is premature to assume all is lost before a case can even be built. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in Wheaton to discuss your case today. Call 630-933-8400 for a free consultation with a member of our team.