In today’s digital world, the use of electronic communication in marriages and divorces has become common. As a divorce attorney, I’ve seen many clients who have evidence of their spouse’s infidelity in the form of emails and texts. This raises an important question: How did they get these messages?
In this article, we’ll explore if you can sue your ex for hacking your computer during a divorce in Texas, focusing on the legal aspect known as “Breach of Computer Security.”
Delving Into the Concept of Breach of Computer Security
“Breach of Computer Security” is a legal term often brought into play within both the domestic and professional spheres. It emphasizes the crucial role of preserving the sanctity of electronically stored data and upholding the privacy of computer-based information. From a legal standpoint, a tort denotes a wrongful act perpetrated by one individual against another, excluding contractual claims that are predominantly associated with commercial environments.
In this intricate matrix of marital disputes and digital security, spouses indulging in such transgressions must keep themselves informed of not just the prospective lawsuits they may face, but also the potential criminal charges that may arise. Herein lies the double-edged sword of the breach of computer security – it is a criminal offense in addition to being a civil liability, with the penalties diverging based on the specifics of the act committed and the offender’s prior legal history.
Legal Consequences of Breaching Computer Security
Legally, an offense is committed if an individual knowingly accesses a computer, a computer network, or a computer system without securing the owner’s valid consent. It is vital to note that the knowledge requirement is twofold, applying to both the act of computer access and the procurement of consent. As laid out in Chapter 33 of the Penal Code, offenses of this nature are usually classified as Class B misdemeanors, barring a few exceptions:
- The offense graduates to a state jail felony if the defendant has prior convictions (two or more times) or if the system in question belongs to the government or a critical infrastructure facility.
- A standard breach of computer security in Texas as a Class B Misdemeanor is punishable by incarceration of up to 180 days and a monetary fine not exceeding $2,000.
The severity of the offense escalates if the defendant harbors the intention to inflict harm, resulting in more punitive penalties that are based on the aggregate amount involved:
- State Jail Felony: Pertains to an aggregate amount less than $20,000.
- 3rd Degree Felony: Encompasses an aggregate amount ranging between $20,000 and $100,000.
- 2nd Degree Felony: Applicable to an aggregate amount falling between $100,000 and $200,000.
- 1st Degree Felony: Involves an aggregate amount exceeding $200,000.
Aggregate Amount Involved
State Jail Felony
3rd degree felony
≥ $20,000 < $100,000
2nd degree felony
≥ $100,000 < $200,000
1st degree felony
Building a Robust Case for Breach of Computer Security
Establishing beyond doubt that a breach of computer security has taken place and has inflicted the required level of harm is no small feat. For fortifying such a case, one can resort to drawing comparisons with other tangible instances such as alcohol misuse, marital infidelity, or the subsequent necessity for therapeutic or psychiatric aid to alleviate the ensuing emotional distress. This method aids in forming a solid cause of action for the aggrieved party.
To successfully make a case for a breach of computer security, the following elements must be irrefutably proven:
- The accused intentionally accessed the victim’s computer, computer network, or computer system.
- The access was granted without the victim’s informed consent.
- The password employed for the access was confidential and safeguarded.
- The perpetrator was not privy to the password.
A Civil Recourse: Cause of Action
Chapter 143 of the Civil Practice and Remedies Code extends a helping hand to individuals or entities who have endured injury or property damage owing to a deliberate or knowing violation of Chapter 33 of the Penal Code. This provision encapsulates both online impersonation and the breach of computer security offenses highlighted above. The civil cause of action facilitates the affected party in seeking the following forms of restitution:
- Actual damages
- Reasonable attorney’s fees
- Costs associated with the legal action
In conclusion, the realm of breach of computer security within the framework of marital disputes is a convoluted one. It encompasses both criminal implications and civil courses of action, providing a multitude of legal pathways for remediation. An in-depth comprehension of the legal implications of this tort can empower individuals to safeguard their privacy and seek retribution when their rights are infringed in the virtual domain.
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