Computer Crimes – The Prosecutor Must ‘Put the Defendant’s Fingers on the Keyboard’

By Dallas and Collin County Criminal Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 562-7549

www.thecollincountylawyer.com

Every legislative session comes with new cyber laws altogether or new tweaks on existing laws.  Common online crimes are online harassment, online impersonation, unauthorized computer access and sex crimes such as online solicitation.

The biggest challenge for the prosecutor is to ‘put the Defendant’s fingers on the keyboard.’  In other words, the prosecutor must show that the computer crime, if any, was committed by the Defendant and not someone else on the same computer.  Though police may be able to track online activity to a particular Facebook or Yahoo account and can pin-point it to a particular IP address doesn’t mean they’ve made their case.  They must also eliminate other suspects under the same roof which can be difficult.  Remember too that the prosecution bears the burden of proof beyond all reasonable doubt and the burden never shifts to the defense.

This is where the advocacy of a skilled criminal defense lawyer can help with these types of charges.  Often police and prosecutors will quit on a case once they’ve narrowed the evidence down to a particular IP address if someone lives there with a motive to commit the crime.  In trial, though, the jury must be made to understand the importance of eliminating all other suspects — and thus eliminating all reasonable doubt.

Compare an online case with a case with biological evidence such as DNA.  In a case with a DNA match, the prosecutor can tell the jury that the DNA eliminates every other possible suspect in the state of Texas, the United States, or North America.  On a computer case, the prosecution can’t even eliminate other suspects living in the same house.

The prosecutor must “put the defendant’s fingers on the keyboard.”  Don’t let the jury allow them to get away with any less!

*Jeremy F. Rosenthal is an attorney licensed to practice in the State of Texas.  Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice.  For legal advice about any issue you should contact an attorney directly.  Contacting the attorney through this blog does not create an attorney-client privilege and communications to the attorney through this blog are not confidential.

3 Responses to Computer Crimes – The Prosecutor Must ‘Put the Defendant’s Fingers on the Keyboard’

  1. lynne0312 says:

    Here is a classic case where the prosecutors failed to prove the defendant did the Google searches, yet that is what convicted him of murder.
    The defense was unable to defend against the evidence because the judge wouldn’t allow their experts to testify.
    There were all kinds of problems with it too, evidence was completely mishandled. The trial transcripts are not even complete yet so no appeal can even be filed yet.
    http://justiceforbradcooper.wordpress.com/2011/07/31/more-evidence-of-tampering-altered-passwords-and-timedate/

  2. MiMi says:

    The biggest challenge for the prosecutor is to ‘put the Defendant’s fingers on the keyboard.’ In other words, the prosecutor must show that the computer crime, if any, was committed by the Defendant and not someone else on the same computer. Though police may be able to track online activity to a particular Facebook or Yahoo account and can pin-point it to a particular IP address doesn’t mean they’ve made their case. They must also eliminate other suspects under the same roof which can be difficult. Remember too that the prosecution bears the burden of proof beyond all reasonable doubt and the burden never shifts to the defense.

    THIS JUST MIGHT BE TRUE IN SOME STATES….but as for North Carolina…..nope…it does NOT happen….the state convicted a Canadian man this year 2011….for the first degree murder of his wife, Nancy Cooper….the trial was actually video taped “live” and is available for public view at WRAL (dot) com….search for BRAD COOPER….the trial is one of those things, ***Seeing is BELIEVING***…..this trial WILL SHOCK YOU….no where but in North Carolina….and to think that it was a 42 second google search which convicted this man…and it was NOT EVEN PROVED IN COURT….that he did it….the jurors allowed such as this to happen…and the judge disallowed a lot of important factors that the jurors should have heard…..FAIR AND JUST?????? You be the JUDGE….

  3. […] I came across a law blog written by attorney Jeremy Rosenthal.  He discussed the importance of proving that computer […]

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