New Jersey’s “Leak Laws” – Criminal Offense for Wrongful Access and Disclosure of Information

Under N.J.S.A. 2C:20-31, there are two crimes for accessing computers illegally (“wrongful access”) and disclosing information. A criminal conviction under one of these crimes could result in a second degree indictable offense, which carries a presumption of incarceration upwards of ten (10) years. In addition, this prison term will include a period of parole ineligibility for 1/2 of the prison term (i.e. a ten year sentence means five years before you become parole eligible).

Wrongful Access and Disclosure of Information Defined Under N.J.S.A. 2C:20-31

The language of the statute defines ‘wrongful access’ and ‘disclosure of information’ as follows:

“A person is guilty of a crime of the third degree if the person purposely or knowingly and without authorization, or in excess of authorization, accesses any data, data base, computer, computer storage medium, computer software, computer equipment,computer system and knowingly or recklessly discloses or causes to be disclosed any data, data base, computer software, computer programs or personal identifying information.”

“A person is guilty of a crime of the second degree if the person purposely or knowingly and without authorization, or in excess of authorization, accesses any data, data base, computer, computer storage medium, computer software, computer equipment, computer system or computer network and purposely or knowingly discloses or causes to be disclosed any data, data base, computer software, computer program or other information that is protected from disclosure by any law, court order or rule of court. Every sentence imposed upon a conviction pursuant to this subsection shall include a period of imprisonment. The period of imprisonment shall include a minimum term of one-third to one-half of the sentence imposed, during which term the defendant shall not be eligible for parole.”

What constitutes ‘Unauthorized Access’?

As determined in State v. Riley, 412 N.J.Super. 162 (App. Div. 2009), “unauthorized access,” as used in computer crime law making it a third degree crime if a person knowingly or purposely accesses computerized data without authorization or in excess of authorization, or accesses data and then knowingly or recklessly discloses it, does not encompass entry into a computer database by an insider who enjoys a current password or code-based access to information; prosecution for such activity would amount to reading the computer crime act to criminalize what amounts to breach of employment contracts, or even less formal employment policies, governing use of workplace computers by insiders or employees already granted some level of access to them.

Computer related crimes tend to incorporate a myriad of search-related issues. For this reason, obtaining the assistance of seasoned attorneys is necessary to adequately protect your rights. Contact the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall at 1 (800) 879-9087 and speak with an experienced wrongful access & disclosure of information defense attorney today. The initial consultation is always provided free of charge.