The U.S. Virgin Islands will have specific statutes criminalizing an array of computer-related offenses, like using a computer for fraud, stealing data, and cyber-stalking and harassment, if legislation approved in committee Monday becomes law.
The measure before the Homeland Security, Justice and Public Safety Committee, sponsored by Sen. Diane Capehart, would make it a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, to use computers, or information on computers, or to send information online or through a computer network, for a fraudulent purpose. It also would make it a felony to destroy data or software that is required by law to be kept, or to obstruct an investigation by destroying data or equipment.
Stealing computer equipment or data worth more than $500 would be a felony and if it is valued at less than $500, it would be a misdemeanor.
The bill, which senators said is likely to be amended when it is considered again in the Rules and Judiciary Committee, also criminalizes sending any knowingly false information online for any purpose. The bill says anyone who "intentionally or knowingly ... makes a transmission of false data ... or makes, presents or uses or causes to be made, presented or used any data for any other purpose with knowledge of its falsity, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor," punishable by up to a year in jail.
Posting an online profile in which the age or weight are "knowingly" untrue would appear to meet this definition, as would a false claim on Facebook, or any other untruth knowingly transmitted online "for any other purpose" besides fraud. (Bill 30-0006)
Using a computer or smartphone to stalk or harass someone "for the sole purpose" of harassing them would be a misdemeanor, and if the person is doing so in violation of a restraining order, it would be a felony.
Attorney General Vincent Frazer, Police Commissioner Rodney Querrard and Bureau of Information Technology Director Reuben Molloy testified in support of the measure Monday. They suggested additional technology-oriented activities that could use specific criminal statutes, such as using online communications for trafficking contraband and people.
Saying any cyber-crimes law would need to be added to and updated regardless, Sen. Craig Barshinger asked if there were anything in the bill that needed to be removed or clarified, rather than added to it.
"There should be something, some language to say it means actions that are not part of your normal business operation," Molloy said.
Voting to send the bill on for further consideration were: Barshinger, Sens. Judi Buckley, Kenneth Gittens and Sammuel Sanes. Sens. Clarence Payne, Alicia Hansen and Tregenza Roach were absent.
The committee also approved a bill, sponsored by Gittens, to expand the area within which it is a violation to carry unlicensed firearms near a school and other sensitive structures, from 100 to 1,000 feet, and adding senior citizen centers and school bus stops to the list. (Bill 30-0065)
Frazer testified in support of the measure, saying the change made local law match federal law, making local prosecution easier. The territory presently prosecutes those crimes under the federal statute, but that requires working with federal officials on each prosecution, so a local statute will give local prosecutors more flexibility, he said.
The senators on the committee sent forward a bill, sponsored by Sanes, making it illegal for a person convicted of a violent felony to possess body armor. (Bill 30-0062) And it sent forward a bill making it a felony for a prison inmate to throw any bodily fluid at anyone a felony for anyone, anywhere to do so if they know they have a contagious disease, and a misdemeanor if not. (Bill 30-0039)
There have been six such incidents in the prison in the last 18 months, Bureau of Corrections Director Julius Wilson testified. Normally, they are dealt with administratively, but having a more powerful legal tool, and a clear cut law prohibiting it would help Corrections punish and discourage this sort of action, he said.
Voting in favor of each of these three measures were: Buckley, Gittens, Payne and Sanes. Hansen and Roach were absent.