Is Stealing Wi-Fi a Crime in New Mexico?
How can you steal something you can’t even see? The police can charge you with the stealing of Wi-Fi in New Mexico if they have evidence you used another person’s internet signal without their permission. You could spend a long time in jail, ironically without internet access, for stealing a Wi-Fi signal.
Do not allow a simple mistake to turn your life upside down. The internet theft lawyers with New Mexico Criminal Law Offices dedicate their practice to defending people just like you. The experienced defense attorneys with New Mexico Criminal Law Offices promise to fight for your rights. Their knowledge and experience can give you the best opportunity to avoid criminal penalties that can ruin your life.
New Mexico Computer Crimes Act
The state’s Computer Crimes Act answers the question, Is stealing of Wi-Fi a crime in New Mexico? New Mexico’s Computer Crimes Act, found in New Mexico Statutes Annotated § 30-45-1 to 30-45-7, creates several different crimes for illegally accessing a computer or its files without authority. Let’s look at some of the subsections of those statutes to help better understand these crimes.
Unauthorized Computer Use
The stealing of Wi-Fi in New Mexico is a crime that is referred to as unauthorized computer use. The statute defines unauthorized computer use as a knowing and willful act that is carried out without the permission of the owner. Or, having gotten permission, knowingly and willfully exceeding the limits of that permission with regards to accessing, using, taking, transferring, concealing, obtaining, copying, or keeping a computer, computer network, computer property, computer service, computer system, or any part thereof — and causing some amount of harm to the owner of the computer or computer system.
Computer abuse happens when someone willfully, knowingly, and without authorization alters, disrupts, damages, changes, or destroys a computer, computer property, computer network, computer service, or computer system. This crime also applies if someone gets authorization, but exceeds the limits of that authority to engage in any of the above-listed, prohibited actions. As you can see, the difference between this charge and unauthorized computer use lies in the disruption of service rather than just unauthorized use.
Computer Access with Intent to Defraud or Embezzle
Accessing a computer with the intent to defraud or embezzle is a crime under the Computer Crimes Act. Anyone who accesses a computer or computer system with the intent to obtain money, property, or anything of value, by embezzlement or false pretenses could face charges.
As with all crimes, the prosecution has to prove the case against you beyond a reasonable doubt.
Potential Penalties Under the Computer Crimes Act
The amount of harm caused determines the severity of the penalty under New Mexico’s Computer Crimes Act. The prosecutor can charge you with any level of crime from petty misdemeanors to second-degree felony charges. The charges and potential sentences break down as follows:
- Damage to property or service under $250 is a petty misdemeanor—you could spend up to six months in jail for a petty misdemeanor conviction;
- Damage to property or service between $250 and $500 is a misdemeanor— you could serve up to one year in jail if convicted;
- Damage to property or service between $500 and $2,500 is a fourth-degree felony—you could spend up to 18 months in prison if convicted;
- Damage to property or service between $2,500 to $20,000 is a third-degree felony—you could serve up to three years in prison if convicted; and
- Damage to property or service over $20,000 is a second-degree felony—which carries a sentence of up to nine years in prison if convicted.
Not only could you go to jail or prison for stealing Wi-Fi, but you could have an order of restitution to the victim as well. Even if you went to jail, the court can order you to complete probation, to force you to pay restitution to the victim. Additionally, the court has the authority to order you to forfeit the devices you used to commit a computer-related crime.
Investigating Wi-Fi Theft
Finding a private network that you either hack or use because it has no password protection may seem like your lucky day. You may rationalize your actions by telling yourself that no one will know. This type of action doesn’t feel “as bad” as sneaking out of your neighbor’s house while concealing the hardware that broadcasts the Wi-Fi signal, for instance. But it’s important that you know that it is a crime, even if it doesn’t necessarily feel like one. And investigators are well trained to discover this type of activity.
Computer crimes investigators are highly-trained law enforcement officers. As a result, they are well-versed in detecting Wi-Fi signal theft along with other internet crimes. The one piece of evidence they look for right away is slowing internet speeds.
A Wi-Fi signal that is using too much bandwidth will slow down. The customer often calls their internet service provider (ISP) consumer support to find out why their internet no longer works. With a little detective work, the ISP can figure out if someone accessed the customer’s internet service. They can turn this information over to the police. Then, the police could investigate the leads generated by the ISP and develop a suspect.
You still might think this is no big deal. However, you should consider what may happen to the person whose internet speeds plummet because you jumped on their signal. They pay for that service, you don’t. That is why the stealing of a Wi-Fi signal in New Mexico is a crime. Stealing a Wi-Fi signal is the same thing as splitting your neighbor’s cable or telephone lines and using their services so you don’t have to pay.
Defenses to Wi-Fi Theft in New Mexico
The best defense strategy for you will depend on the facts of the case. There’s no single defense strategy that works for every case because every case is unique.
Depending on the circumstances, your New Mexico theft defense lawyer might argue that you had permission from the person whose signal you used. In other cases, your legal practitioner might argue that the police charged the wrong guy to give you the best chance of an acquittal. You also might be able to knock evidence out of the trial or get the case thrown out altogether if the police violated your rights.
New Mexico Criminal Law Offices: Experience the Difference
With over two decades of experience defending people charged with crimes in New Mexico, the criminal charges defense attorneys with New Mexico Criminal Law Offices will work harder than everyone to clear your name. It’s our #1 priority.
Call our office today at 505-200-2982 to schedule an appointment for a free consultation.