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So you want to be a computer criminal?

More what to do if you are busted...


I've been trying to be overly simplistic with my explanation. The United States Sentencing Guidelines (U.S.S.G.), are in fact quite complex. So much so that special law firms are forming that deal only with sentencing. If you get busted, I would highly recommend hiring one. In some cases it might be wise to avoid hiring a trial attorney and go straight to one of these "Post Conviction Specialists." Save your money, plead out, do your time. This may sound a little harsh, but considering the fact that the U.S. Attorney's Office has a 95% conviction rate, it may be sage advice. However, I don't want to gloss over the importance of a ready for trial posturing. If you have a strong trial attorney, and have a strong case, it will go a long way towards good plea bargain negotiations. 


Your attorney can be your worst foe or your finest advocate. Finding the proper one can be a difficult task. Costs will vary and typically the attorney asks you how much cash you can raise and then says, "that amount will be fine". In actuality a simple plea and sentencing should run you around $15,000. Trial fees can easily soar into the 6 figure category. And finally, a post conviction specialist will charge $5000 to $15,000 to handle your sentencing presentation with final arguments. 

You may however, find yourself at the mercy of The Public Defenders Office. Usually they are worthless, occasionally you'll find one that will fight for you. Essentially it's a crap shoot. All I can say is if you don't like the one you have, fire them and hope you get appointed a better one. If you can scrape together $5000 for a sentencing (post conviction) specialist to work with your public defender I would highly recommend it. This specialist will make certain the judge sees the whole picture and will argue in the most effective manner for a light or reasonable sentence. Do not rely on your public defender to thoroughly present your case. Your sentencing hearing is going to flash by so fast you'll walk out of the court room dizzy. You and your defense team need to go into that hearing fully prepared, having already filed a sentencing memorandum. 

The plea agreement you sign is going to affect you and your case well after you are sentenced. Plea agreements can be tricky business and if you are not careful or are in a bad defense position (the case against you is strong), your agreement may get the best of you. There are many issues in a plea to negotiate over. But essentially my advice would be to avoid signing away your right to appeal. Once you get to a real prison with real jailhouse lawyers you will find out how bad you got screwed. That issue notwithstanding, you are most likely going to want to appeal. This being the case you need to remember two things: bring all your appealable issues up at sentencing and file a notice of appeal within 10 days of your sentencing. Snooze and loose. 

I should however, mention that you can appeal some issues even though you signed away your rights to appeal. For example, you can not sign away your right to appeal an illegal sentence. If the judge orders something that is not permissible by statute, you then have a constitutional right to appeal your sentence.

I will close this subpart with a prison joke. Q: How can you tell when your attorney is lying? A: You can see his lips moving.


Whatever happened to getting off on a technicality? I'm sorry to say those days are gone, left only to the movies. The courts generally dismiss many arguments as "harmless error" or "the government acted in good faith". The most alarming trend, and surely the root of the prosecutions success, are the liberally worded conspiracy laws. Quite simply, if two or more people plan to do something illegal, then one of them does something in furtherance of the objective (even something legal), then it's a crime. Yes, it's true. In America it's illegal to simply talk about committing a crime. Paging Mr. Orwell. Hello? 

Here's a hypothetical example to clarify this. Bill G. and Marc A. are hackers (can you imagine?) Bill and Marc are talking on the phone and unbeknownst to them the FBI is recording the call. They talk about hacking into Apple's mainframe and erasing the prototype of the new Apple Web Browser. Later that day, Marc does some legitimate research to find out what type of mainframe and operating system Apple uses. The next morning, the Feds raid Marc's house and seize everything that has wires. Bill and Marc go to trial and spend millions to defend themselves. They are both found guilty of conspiracy to commit unauthorized access to a computer system.

More what to do when you are busted--->>

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