Hacking is a computer crime that is against federal law. The Department of Justice has many different statutes that address this and other computer-related crimes. The specific statutes about hacking are in 18 U.S. Code Section 1030, which covers information about computer fraud and all related acts.
Every state also has its own computer crime laws that could apply to your case if you're accused of hacking. Many of these laws specifically prohibit individuals from illegally accessing another person's or entity's information without permission. When you hack into a computer to gain information, you're breaking the law.
What kinds of penalties can you face for hacking crimes?
Depending on the kind of computer crime you were involved with, you could face only a few years in prison up to hundred. For example, if you hack into a friend's computer and steal his or her identity, your penalty may not be as severe as if you hack into the White House's server to look at top-secret files.
Prison sentences are certainly possible with hacking crimes if you're convicted. You may also have to pay restitution if you cost a company or individual money. Fines, fees and other penalties are possible.
What's fortunate is that most crimes that are in the above 18 U.S. Code Section 1030 have a prison sentence of only 10 years. Fines vary depending on the financial damage caused. While 10 years is a long period of time, it's lower than for crimes such as wire fraud, which can lead to up to 20 years in prison.
Since hacking is a federal crime, those accused need to take their defenses seriously. Without a strong defense strategy, you're facing the government, federal or state, and you have a low chance of success. A strong defense helps prevent unfair penalties and convictions.