The federal Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Attorney General’s Office have made it clear that the current trend of ‘Zoom-bombing’ is illegal. Those caught committing this latest trending prank could face not just federal charges but also state-level prosecution. This newest form of crime has come about due to the Coronavirus pandemic forcing more employees and students to work from home. Virtual conferencing has become a must, and Zoom software has been one of the more popular modes of communication for online learning, remote work meetings, and even family reunions.
Unfortunately, this adjustment in how we work and learn has led to individuals crashing these meetings, much like someone goes to a wedding uninvited. The problem is that the toxic nature of Zoom-bombing has resulted in the popularization of videos on social media platforms like TikTok, where abusive language, racist tirades, and offensive images are forced on unsuspecting office meetings by strangers for entertainment.
The issue has become so bad in Michigan that the Michigan Municipal League is working with state legislators and city governments to find ways to conduct business online without these offensive encounters.
Yes, Zoom-bombing is a Crime in Michigan
The U.S. Attorney General for Michigan recently told the press that they would start charging those participating in Zoom-bombing with federal and state crimes resulting in jail time and fines if convicted. Even Matthew Schneider, the United States Attorney for Eastern Michigan, made it clear that interfering with public meetings and virtual conferences in Michigan could result in multiple state and federal law enforcement levels showing up at your home.
Currently, the crime of hacking or disrupting online classes, meetings, and conferences could iIf an individual is found to be hacking into or disrupting online meetings, classrooms, and discussions, can include the following methods:
- Computer intrusion
- Hate speech/crimes
- Making threatening communications
- Disruption of public meetings
- Committing a crime through the use of a computer
All of these charges could receive sentences that include jailing and fines. The FBI also has asked anyone victimized by Zoom-bombing to submit a complaint to the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
What are the Legal Consequences of Zoom-Bombing in Lansing, MI?
Michigan prosecutors currently charge Zoom-bombing offenders under several statutes, including:
Malicious Use of Electronics Communications
This statute states that individuals maliciously using a telecommunications service like Zoom to scare, intimidate, terrorize, harass, molest, annoy, or threaten others is committing a crime. If convicted, one could pay a fine of up to $1,000 and/or spend up to six months in jail. It doesn’t matter where the offender is located for this law to apply.
Fraudulent Access to a Computer or Network
For those who violate this statute and commit a computer crime by accessing an unauthorized computer or network, the penalty is harsh and unforgiving. For those accused of Zoom-bombing, and the violation amounts to less than $200, it is a misdemeanor. The severity and punishments for crimes involving more than $1,000 quickly escalate to felony-level charges with severe fines and jail or prison time.
Crimes that involve sexual imagery, language, and abuse used to disrupt teleconferences can bring both state and federal-level computer sex crime charges. If you are facing such charges, it’s possible you could get 20 years in prison, lifetime registration on the Michigan sex offender registry, and fines totaling upwards of $250,000.
While anyone running video conferences should take extra steps to secure their transmissions, those who commit Zoom-bombing offenses can expect swift action by Lansing, MI, law enforcement, and other authorities who might have jurisdiction in the matter.
Trust the Computer Crime Defense Attorneys at Coontz Law
Anyone facing a computer crime charge related to Zoom-bombing in Lansing, MI, needs to take action to protect their rights as soon as they are being investigated. You may have had nothing to do with the event that happened, but your computer’s IP address was used to commit the crime. Maybe your teen thought they were playing an inconvenient prank and didn’t understand the full consequences of their actions. Contact Coontz Law first before making any statements regarding your involvement or knowledge of this computer crime committed by you or someone in your household.