Information Technology (IT) dominates the modern world, and its abuse is commonplace. The criminal legal system is trying to “hunt down” the alleged perpetrators.

With the global anxiety surrounding the so-called "Y2K problem", it became clear to many people for the first time how dependent our society has become on technology. From ticket vending machines to PCs at home, everyone uses technological devices.  Dependence on information technology fuels users' fears of manipulation. German law makers are attempting to adapt the Criminal Code (StGB) of 1872 to today’s technological developments and in recognition of European guidelines.

To this end, a large number of new offences have been added and existing offences reconfigured within the criminal code in recent years.

A new field of IT criminal law has been established without its contours being precisely defined. Terms such as computer crime or cybercrime are sometimes used synonymously. The offences below can be clearly attributed to IT criminal law, for example

  • Computer fraud, § 263a StGB,
  • Spying on data etc., §§ 202a-c StGB,
  • Data modification, § 303a StGB, or
  • Computer sabotage, § 303b StGB.

The goal is clear: legislators want to combat so-called "(access) hacking", "skimming" or "phishing" with new regulations and amendments to the law. "Classic" crimes that can be committed more easily with the help of the Internet, such as the commission of copyright offences through the exchange of files, fraud via ebay and the like, are also being targeted.

The neglect of constitutional standards, however, is a burden for every suspect concerned and a challenge for criminal defence.

In this regulatory frenzy, it is questionable that legislators have already made - allegedly - preparatory acts punishable by law. Although this tendency to shift criminal liability forward can be seen in the entire Criminal Code and in secondary criminal law, it is particularly evident in IT criminal law. For example, the Federal Constitutional Court had to deal with § 202c StGB (keyword: "dual-use-tools") and interpreted it restrictively in order to not violate constitutional stipulations.

Because of the low level of initial suspicion required, a person may very quickly find himself under investigation by the public prosecutor's office. Even careless handling of passwords can currently be considered relevant under German criminal law.

The accused requires special professional support in IT criminal law.  verte|rechtsanwälte identifies such risks through criminal compliance and advises preventive action, especially for corporate clients. Appropriate criminal defence in the field of IT criminal law requires not only criminal law expertise but also technical expertise at every stage of the proceedings. Many public prosecutors or judges lack expertise in the field of information technology, so that false assumptions are often made when conducting criminal proceedings. This must be decisively dealt with by the defence.

 

 

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