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Zoey_ JD
Zoey_ JD, JustAnswer Criminal Law Mentor
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 23164
Experience:  Admitted to NYS Criminal defense bar in 1989. Extensive arraignment, hearing, trial experience.
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If you accept a secretarial job online and work it then find

Resolved Question:

If you accept a secretarial job online and work it then find out it is illegal and the police take your computer what happens to you and your computer?
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 5 years ago.
Hello Jacustomer,

If the police think that your computer is either the fruit or the means of illegal activity they can impound it and look at its files for evidence of illegal activity. If they find it, they will hold the computer for evidence until the case is over with. From there, as it's the means by which a crime may have been committed you will probably not be able to get it back. If there's nothing incriminating in the computer they should return it to you after their investigation.

Whether you will be prosecuted will depend on whether or not the prosecutor ends up with probable cause to arrest you. Probable cause in this case would be just a reasonable belief that you may have furthered an illegal activity. There's a big difference between what's needed for an arrest (very little evidence) and what's needed for a conviction (proof beyond a reasonable doubt) but if they have reason to believe you were a knowing part of this fraud, they will prosecute.

Internet crimes can be prosecuted on a state or federal level. It's hard to know on so little information whether the enterprise you were part of is big enough to interest the Federal government. As a state crime it would generally be the sort of an offense for which a sentence of probation would be possible with restitution to the victims of the illegal activities.

It is good that you have involved a lawyer early before there has been an arrest. As the authorities are likely to be more interested in your "employers" than in you, he may be able to work out a fairlyrelatively favorable disposition.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
they told me when they took my computer that they were going to make a copy of the hard drive and return it within a few days but I have not gotten it back yet. Also I did not know what I was doing was illegal. If they arrest me how long before they do it and will I lose my job, house and car if they arrest me?
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 5 years ago.

I understand that you are worried, but you are not going to lose your home and job just for an arrest, and there's no reason at this point for you to think you will be convicted.

The state has until the statute of limitations runs out in order to press criminal charges against you. Unfortunately, however, NC has no statute of limitations on a felony charge, which means they can take as long as they want before arresting you. But if you do end up arrested and this is your first contact with the criminal justice system, you will likely be left at liberty while you fight this case, as it's a non-violent crime and you have roots in the community. Your defense to this would appear to be that you're the innocent victim of fraudulent enterprise, and as this sort of thing has become a huge problem, that may be a very viable defense.

So the best thing you can do for now -- and I know it may be easier to say than to do -- is to just go on with your life. The longer it takes for anything to happen, the more likely that you will be all right. Just make sure you do not discuss anything about the job to the police or, for that matter, to anyone other than your lawyer. If the police contact you wanting to talk, tell them that you'll run that by your lawyer and get back to them. Then call him and follow his instructions.

As for the computer, your lawyer can bug the police about the computer, but as I more or less indicated earlier police can keep the property under a couple of circumstances: 1) if it's the fruit of a crime (stolen property) 2) if it's the instrumentality of a crime (the means by which you allegedly committed the crime; 3) the prosecutor needs it as evidence; So depending on what they find, it may not be just a matter of copying the hard drive.
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