Illegal hacking is against the law under several federal statutes and California state laws. So, is snooping through someone’s phone illegal? Can you be arrested for hacking someone’s phone in California?

The simple answer to these questions is “yes.” In California, hacking into someone’s phone can be illegal under federal and state anti-hacking laws and other criminal statutes. 

What Is Illegal Hacking in California?

It might be tempting to hack into someone’s phone. You might be curious about what someone is doing, or you must suspect someone of wronging you somehow. Some people hack phones in the process of committing white collar crimes, including identity theft, fraud, and other offenses.

Someone can be guilty of illegal hacking if they:

  • Gain access to systems or computers;
  • Intercept or misuse electronic transmissions to engage in identity theft; or,
  • Intercept an electronic transmission intended for another person.

Hacking can be lawful if a law enforcement or government agency obtains a warrant giving them legal authority to access someone’s cell phone or computer. This type of hacking is called “ethical hacking.” However, hacking into someone’s phone in California without lawful authority is illegal.

What Laws Might Apply to a Cell Phone Hacking Case in California?

Under California Penal Code §502, accessing a computer network without permission is a crime. Unauthorized access to computer networks includes cell phones because computer networks incorporate communication between mobile devices. Therefore, cell phones fall within the definition of a computer.

You could be charged with illegal hacking as an accomplice even if you were not the person who hacked into a phone. If you helped someone hack into a phone, you could be guilty of illegal hacking.

The penalties for hacking into someone’s cell phone in California depend on the specific charge. Criminal hacking is a wobbler, meaning it can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor

Misdemeanor illegal hacking of someone’s phone could result in a fine of up to $5,000, up to one year in county jail, and summary probation. A felony illegal hacking conviction could result in up to three years in state prison, a fine of up to $10,000, and formal felony probation. 

Depending on the facts of the case, you could also be charged with other crimes. You could face wiretapping, eavesdropping, cyberstalking, and other criminal charges. You could also face deportation, depending on your status.

Federal Anti-Hacking Laws Might Apply to Cell Phone Hacking in California

In addition to state laws, several federal anti-hacking laws could apply. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 protects the privacy of wire, electronic, and oral communication. The ECPA applies to communications in transit, being made, or stored on computers. It protects unauthorized access to emails, text messages, phone calls, instant messages, and other forms of electronic communication.

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 was created to make hacking computers used by financial institutions and the federal government illegal. However, today, the CFAA makes it illegal to hack into almost any device in the United States, including cell phones. 

Federal penalties for hacking into someone’s phone can be severe. In addition to thousands of dollars in fines, you could spend years in a federal prison. When you are released, you have a federal felony record, which will follow you for the rest of your life.

Are There Defenses to Hacking a Person’s Cell Phone in California?

A San Diego criminal defense attorney can help you explore various defenses to hacking charges. Possible defenses to allegations of hacking into someone’s phone include, but are not limited to:

  • The law enforcement officers violated your constitutional rights by conducting an illegal search and seizure.
  • You reasonably believed you were authorized to operate or use the phone when you acted.
  • Lack of intent to commit a crime. There is insufficient evidence to prove you knowingly hacked into someone’s phone without authorization.
  • The victim is making false allegations against you.
  • You reasonably believed the owner or person authorized to give permission to use or access the phone gave you their consent before you acted.
  • Mistaken identity. Law enforcement officers arrested the wrong person.

The potential penalties for violating anti-hacking laws in California are severe. You need an experienced San Diego criminal defense lawyer to defend you against these charges.

The best way to protect your rights is to ask for an attorney when you are arrested. Call a lawyer immediately if you suspect you are under investigation for hacking. Talking to the police or prosecutors without a lawyer present is never in your best interest. 

Contact a San Diego Lawyer at Blair Defense Criminal Lawyers Today For Help

For more information please contact the San Diego criminal defense lawyers at Blair Defense Criminal Lawyers for a free consultation, give us a call at (619) 357-4977, or visit our convenient location:

Blair Defense Criminal Lawyers – San Diego Criminal Defense Law Firm
255 Broadway, Ste 1740
San Diego, CA. 92101