Crimes like prostitution, fraud and child pornography existed long before the age of the internet.
However, authorities say an increasing number of crimes are committed or at least facilitated with the aid of computers, smart phones and other digital devices. As such, authorities in Birmingham have announced they intend to expand their cyber crime units.
Our Birmingham criminal defense lawyers know this will likely mean an uptick in the number of cases that will involve evidence obtained online. This is going to mean that an effective defense team must be prepared with the proper resources to successfully challenge the prosecution’s assertions.
That can be especially difficult because one thing the internet does is create a virtual trail to almost everything you do: All your searches, all your communications, all your private messages – even when they are deleted, they never truly go away. In many cases, our defense strategy focuses on working to suppress as much of the evidence as possible.
Meanwhile, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office has said that it intends to expand the resources dedicated to these types of crimes. An example held up recently was an alleged prostitution ring that was targeted by authorities in Tuscaloosa. According to authorities, those involved were soliciting johns through a website called Backpage.com.
Prostitution is illegal under Alabama Code 13A-12-121, which bars anyone from solicitation or coercion into a sexual act for money or other valuables. To do so is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail. Those who promote prostitution (i.e., “pimps), face Class B or C felonies, which can result in substantial prison time.
This has always been the case. However, the explosion of Internet accessibility means that there are more of these cases than ever before. That’s partially because it’s become easier for authorities to track them. In a lot of cases, authorities are even posing as the pimps with phony advertisements in an attempt to lure people into a trap.
Plus, penalties will be more severe when the individual advertising services is a minor – something that can be especially difficult to tell from an online ad.
Child pornography is also another fairly common crime that the cyber crime unit investigates. Possession of child pornography (defined as depictions of any minor under the age of 17), per Alabama Code 13A-12-192, is a Class B felony, punishable by between 2 and 20 years in prison. If you have three or more of those images, you can be charged with possession with intent to disseminate – even if you had no intention of sharing the material. At that point, you face the possibility of several more years in prison.
Then there is identity theft, which the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates is the fastest-growing crime in the country, with an estimated 15 million cases annually. If proven, a person can face between 1 and 10 years behind bars. That’s if it occurs at the state level. Federal level cases tend to result in even higher penalties.
Any one of these alleged crimes can spell the end of your career, your personal relationships and possibly your freedom. Given that local investigators are committing more resources to fighting them, you can’t afford not to hire an experienced defense attorney.