A guilty (prohibited) act. The commission of a prohibited act is one of the two essential elements required for criminal liability, the other element being the intent to commit a crime.
Mental state, or intent. A wrongful mental state is as necessary as a wrongful act to establish criminal liability. What constitutes a mental state varies according to the wrongful action. Thus, for murder, the mens rea is the intent to take a life. For theft, the mens rea must involve both the knowledge that the property belongs to another and the intent to deprive the owner of it.
The malicious burning of another’s dwelling. Some statutes have expanded this to include any real property regardless of ownership and the destruction of property by other means—for example, by explosion.
beyond a reasonable doubt
The standard used to determine the guilt or innocence of a person criminally charged. To be guilty of a crime, one must be proved guilty “beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt.” A reasonable doubt is one that would cause a prudent person to hesitate before acting in matters important to him or her.
Short for robot network—a group of computers that run an application that is controlled and manipulated only by the software source. Although sometimes a legitimate network, usually this term is reserved for a group of computers that have been infected by malicious robot software. In a botnet, each connected computer becomes a zombie, or drone.
The unlawful entry into a building with the intent to commit a felony. (Some state statutes expand this to include the intent to commit any crime.)
Any wrongful act that is directed against computers and computer parties, or wrongful use or abuse of computers or software.
A wrong against society proclaimed in a statute and punishable by society through fines and/or imprisonment—or, in some cases, death.
A crime that occurs online, in the virtual community of the Internet, as opposed to the physical world.
Fraud that involves the online theft of credit-card information, banking details, and other information for criminal use.
A hacker whose purpose is to exploit a target computer for a serious impact, such as the corruption of a program to sabotage a business.
A situation occurring when a person is tried twice for the same criminal offense; prohibited by the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Unlawful pressure brought to bear on a person, causing the person to perform an act that he or she would not otherwise perform.
The fraudulent appropriation of funds or other property by a person to whom the funds or property has been entrusted.
In criminal law, a defense in which the defendant claims that he or she was induced by a public official—usually an undercover agent or police officer—to commit a crime that he or she would otherwise not have committed.
In criminal procedure, a rule under which any evidence that is obtained in violation of the accused’s constitutional rights guaranteed by the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments, as well as any evidence derived from illegally obtained evidence, will not be admissible in court.
A crime—such as arson, murder, rape, or robbery—that carries the most severe sanctions, usually ranging from one year in a state or federal prison to the forfeiture of one’s life.
The fraudulent making or altering of any writing in a way that changes the legal rights and liabilities of another.
A group of citizens called to decide, after hearing the state’s evidence, whether a reasonable basis (probable cause) exists for believing that a crime has been committed and whether a trial ought to be held.
A person who uses one computer to break into another. Professional computer programmers refer to such persons as “crackers.”
The act of stealing another’s identifying information—such as a name, date of birth, or Social Security number—and using that information to access the victim’s financial resources.
A charge by a grand jury that a reasonable basis (probable cause) exists for believing that a crime has been committed and that a trial should be held.
A formal accusation or complaint (without an indictment) issued in certain types of actions (usually criminal actions involving lesser crimes) by a law officer, such as a magistrate.
The wrongful taking and carrying away of another person’s personal property with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property. Some states classify larceny as either grand or petit, depending on the property’s value.
Any software program that is harmful to a computer or, by extension, to a computer user.
A lesser crime than a felony, punishable by a fine or imprisonment for up to one year in other than a state or federal penitentiary.
Falsely reporting income that has been obtained through criminal activity as income obtained through a legitimate business enterprise—in effect, “laundering” the “dirty money.”
In criminal law, a defense against liability. Under Section 3.02 of the Model Penal Code, this defense is justifiable if “the harm or evil sought to be avoided” by a given action “is greater than that sought to be prevented by the law defining the offense charged.”
In criminal law, the least serious kind of criminal offense, such as a traffic or building-code violation.
An online fraud action that allows criminals to pretend to be legitimate companies either by using e-mails or malicious Web sites that trick individuals and companies into providing useful information, such as bank account numbers, Social Security numbers, or credit-card numbers.
The process by which a criminal defendant and the prosecutor in a criminal case work out a mutually satisfactory disposition of the case, subject to court approval; usually involves the defendant’s pleading guilty to a lesser offense in return for a lighter sentence.
The act of forcefully and unlawfully taking personal property of any value from another. Force or intimidation is usually necessary for an act of theft to be considered a robbery.
The legally recognized privilege to protect one’s self or property against injury by another. The privilege of self-defense protects only acts that are reasonably necessary to protect one’s self or property.
The implication of one’s own guilt. The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that people cannot be forced to be witnesses against themselves in criminal cases.
Any program transmitted between computers via the Internet generally without the knowledge or consent of the recipient. Viruses attempt to do deliberate damage to systems and data.
The voice counterpart of phishing.
Nonviolent crime committed by individuals or corporations to obtain a personal or business advantage.
A type of virus that is designed to copy itself from one computer to another without human interaction. Unlike the typical virus, a computer worm can copy itself automatically and can replicate in great volume and with great speed. Worms, for example, can send out copies of themselves to every contact in an e-mail address book.
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