New Jersey College Student Defense: Cybercrime

If you're a student at one of New Jersey's many amazing colleges and universities, congratulations. College isn't just about taking classes. These years can be among the most rewarding of your entire life. They offer you the chance to make new friends, establish your identity, and figure out your future.

One misstep, though, can put all of that in jeopardy. New Jersey schools take a dim view of cybercrime like hacking and identity theft. Get caught trying to change your grade on the school mainframe or illegally downloading movies or music, and you could be subject to suspension or expulsion.

Here's the thing, though: hacking, identity theft, fraud—these aren't just violations of school policy. They're crimes. Breaking state or local laws can get you arrested and possibly sent to jail. Make no mistake: being a student doesn't protect you from prosecution. In fact, you're actually more likely to be caught than average, everyday citizens.

If you're a New Jersey student facing school discipline or criminal charges for cybercrime, make sure you have an experienced student discipline and criminal defense attorney on your side. Joseph D. Lentoprovide the help you need to salvage your education, your record, and your reputation.

Crime Detection on New Jersey Campuses

Obviously, cybercrime isn't a phenomenon that's limited to college campuses. People all over New Jersey commit these crimes, from the fourteen-year-old in Trenton downloading a bootleg copy of Black Adam to the cyber eco-terrorist trying to take down corporate websites from her home in Atlantic City. You're a university student, though, and that makes your risk of detection much greater than other people's. Why? College and university campuses are some of the most highly regulated spaces in the country. They're subject to the law, like anywhere else, but they're additionally subject to university policies, and these are often far stricter than the law. As a student, you're more likely to get noticed if you commit cybercrime, and you're more likely to face adverse consequences, whether those come from a prosecutor or your school's administration.

It's worth remembering that campus police forces usually have as much authority as any city's law enforcement officers. Most New Jersey universities have full-time police forces, staffed by officers trained at accredited police academies who have the authority to arrest you and to recommend local prosecutors file charges against you. The New Jersey Institute of Technology police department, for example, looks like any other police department. It has 78 members, including a Chief, Deputy Chief, lieutenants, sergeants, and officers. Rutgers, a larger school, has over 180 officers.

Even beyond campus police, though, all schools take seriously their responsibility for keeping students safe and making sure the campus is crime-free. Administrators, staff, and even faculty keep an eye out for policy violations. If you should run afoul of school policy, you can easily become a target for local law enforcement as well.

If you should find yourself accused of a cybercrime, you don't want to wait to see what might happen. You want an attorney. You don't want just any attorney, though. You're a student, and that means you need someone on your side who has experience dealing with both campus disciplinary investigations and criminal investigations. You need Joseph D. Lento.

New Jersey Cybercrime Laws

Let's start with the criminal side of the equation. Many students are under the mistaken impression that what they do on campus isn't subject to a criminal investigation. They assume that, at worst, getting caught will get them expelled from their school. Nothing could be further from the truth. Again, many New Jersey college and university police forces are staffed by real officers who work in conjunction with local prosecutors to charge students with criminal offenses. Those that don't have a trained and licensed force, though, generally work closely with local law enforcement agencies to make sure students don't just follow school policy but are held accountable when they break the law. The bottom line is, you can and will be prosecuted for cybercrime in New Jersey; your student status offers you no immunity whatsoever.

Computer Criminal Activity on New Jersey College Campuses

New Jersey has strong laws against a variety of different kinds of cybercrime. Perhaps the most important of these is a blanket prohibition, in Section 2C:20-25 of the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice, against “computer criminal activity.” Specifically, that law prohibits

purposely or knowingly and without authorization, or in excess of authorization, access[ing] any data, database, computer storage medium, computer program, computer software, computer equipment, computer, computer system or computer network.

In other words, just finding a way to clone your professor's computer could land you in big trouble. Even the lowest level offenses, fourth-degree offenses, can garner prison sentences of up to 18 months and fines of up to $10,000.

Of course, fourth-degree offenses are just the beginning. If you use computers as a means to commit fraud, that's a third-degree offense, with a prison sentence of 3-5 years. That could easily apply to any attempt to change your grade or alter your transcript through electronic means. Doing damage to a computer system or causing service disruption—if, for example, you were looking for some way to prevent your professor from administering the final exam—is a second-degree offense: 5-10 years. And should you do damage to any public service such as transportation, gas, water, or communications, that's a first-degree crime carrying a sentence of between 10 and 20 years.

Other Related Crimes on New Jersey College Campuses

In addition to the Computer Criminal Activity law in New Jersey, there are a number of other laws that often involve the misuse of computers and technology. Identity theft, classified in New Jersey as a “Disorderly Persons Offense,” is a good example. With the right piece of software, it's relatively easy to steal another person's credit card information, Social Security number, or university ID number. Doing so, though, would likely get you charged with ID theft in addition to computer crimes. Likewise, credit card and other kinds of fraud often happen these days via electronic means. Accessing someone's bank account and using it to pay for a semester of school would involve committing two separate, if related, crimes at the same time: computer criminal activity and fraud.

Piracy Crimes on New Jersey College Campuses

Another important type of cybercrime that frequently gets committed on college campuses is piracy. You may not think illegally downloading an album or a movie is a big deal, but it can have serious consequences. Of course, there are federal laws that govern copyright. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, for instance, punishes anyone who derives financial gain from piracy with up to a five year prison sentence.

In addition, New Jersey has its own “Anti-piracy Act,” Section 2C: 21-21. This act further prohibits the “transfer” of any audio or audiovisual material for the purposes of commercial gain. In fact, the law goes on to say that

Any law enforcement officer may arrest without warrant any person he has probable cause for believing has operated an audiovisual recording function of a device in violation of this section.

There are important exceptions to these laws that allow you, for instance, to use certain copyrighted materials as part of an educational exercise. These exceptions can be difficult to interpret, though, and only a lawyer may be able to give you definitive answers as to what they mean.

Again, you are more likely than most to be caught committing digital piracy simply because you're a student. Most colleges and universities utilize monitoring software to ensure that no one can use the campus network to commit crimes. Once the school has caught you, they are likely to refer your actions to law enforcement.

Defending New Jersey Student Cybercrime Charges

If you've been charged with a cybercrime by local police or charged by the local prosecutor, it doesn't necessarily mean you'll be convicted, fined, or sent to prison. Everyone—student or otherwise—is entitled to legal representation under the law. That's just as true in New Jersey courts as it is in any other jurisdiction in the country. The reason you have this right? Attorneys know how judicial procedures operate. They understand how to navigate the system, and they are adept at using it to your advantage. The American judicial system wants to give you every possible possibility to successfully defend yourself from charges.

What can attorney Joseph D. Lento do for you if you're charged with cybercrime in New Jersey?

  • Represent you at your arraignment and make sure you're released without restrictive bond terms. That way you can remain in school, and you can help in preparing your defense.
  • Utilize preliminary examination procedures to find gaps in the case against you. This can include things like misidentification, the failure to document observations accurately, or the failure to preserve evidence.
  • Use your rights of discovery to get exonerating and mitigating evidence from the police and prosecution. That evidence can then be used in pretrial conferences to argue your charges should be dismissed.
  • File any pretrial motions about your treatment by the police if any of your constitutional rights were violated. Such motions can also result in the dismissal of charges.
  • Insist the burden on the prosecutor to prove all the elements of your crime is as high as possible and advocate and negotiate for voluntary dismissal of the charges against you.
  • Represent you at trial, including making opening and closing statements, submitting evidence, and examining and cross-examining witnesses.
  • File any post-trial motions and appeals of adverse findings, prosecutorial misconduct, or court errors.

New Jersey student discipline and criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento has successfully represented hundreds of students nationwide against all kinds of criminal charges, including cybercrime charges.

New Jersey College and University Cybercrime Policies

You can expect your New Jersey college or university to follow state and local laws. Most schools even include that as a rule in their own policies. Montclair University's Student Code of Conduct, for instance, notes that “Students are not permitted to violate any local, state or federal law on campus, in other municipalities, or in University-related events.”

In addition, schools typically have rules that echo what's contained in the law. Rowan University, for instance, prohibits “Misuse or abuse of the University's computerized systems,” especially for fraudulent purposes. In fact, later in the code, the school goes further, banning the use of “information and communication technologies including, e-mail, voicemail, telephones, cell phones, text or electronic messaging, web-cameras, or websites to engage in […] any behavior which violates the law, University policies or the Code.”

Often, though, university policies can be more restrictive than state and local laws. Even if you haven't done something that's technically illegal, you may still be guilty of violating policy. For instance, turning in a paper you downloaded from an online paper mill might not get you arrested, but it will certainly get you accused of academic misconduct. Likewise, hacking into your instructor's account to change your grade on an exam probably isn't enough to get you charged with a crime, but it could very well get you suspended or even expelled from your school.

New Jersey University Disciplinary Procedures

If you've been charged with a crime in New Jersey, your school may wait on the outcome of any criminal proceedings before it initiates its own disciplinary proceedings. However, you don't have to be facing a criminal investigation to be charged by your school with violating policy. All New Jersey schools have published rules for how they process such violations, and you're subject to those whether or not you're facing a criminal investigation.

These processes vary from university to university, but typically, they involve an investigation and some sort of adjudication—usually a hearing. You have the chance to offer your side of the story, present evidence of your innocence, and suggest witnesses who may be able to corroborate your version of events.

The Rutgers student disciplinary process offers a good example.

  • All complaints of misconduct are directed to the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards.
  • A Conduct Officer conducts an investigation. This involves meeting with all concerned parties, collecting any physical evidence, and interviewing witnesses.
  • The Conduct Officer may dismiss the charges if they find no substantive evidence to back up the initial accusation. Alternatively, they may refer the matter to the University Hearing Board. At the hearing, you have the opportunity to formally argue your side of the case, including presenting evidence and calling witnesses to testify on your behalf.
  • Finally, you also have the right to appeal the hearing outcome to the Campus Appeals Committee. However, grounds for appeal are limited to an unsupported conclusion, a procedural error, the discovery of new information, or a disproportionate sanction.

It can be every bit as important to have an attorney to handle school disciplinary charges as it is to have one in a criminal case. An attorney can help you prepare your defense, coach you on how to respond to questions, and in most cases, accompany you to meetings and proceedings. You need an attorney though who is experienced at dealing with faculty and administrators, someone who knows how to navigate campus judicial systems, someone who understands what's at stake in these kinds of investigations.

Premier New Jersey Student Defense Attorney, Joseph D. Lento

Joseph D. Lento is a skilled New Jersey criminal defense attorney. He's not just any defense attorney, though. Joseph D. Lento built his career representing student clients. He's comfortable in the courtroom, but he's just as comfortable standing in front of a university appeals board. Joseph D. Lento knows the challenges you face as a student. No matter what kind of charges you're facing—criminal or disciplinary—he wants you to get a fair hearing and the best possible resolution to your case. He also wants to make sure your education doesn't suffer while you go through the process of defending yourself. If you're a student who's in trouble—no matter what the charges—invest in an attorney who knows how to handle whatever may come up. Protect your education and your future. Contact attorney Lento now at 888.535.3686 or go online for help.

​​​Contact The Lento Law Firm Today

When it comes to criminal defense cases, you need the right person in your corner. To learn more about how Mr. Lento can help you, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686. or contact him online.

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