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Unlawful Decryption

The 85th Texas Legislature created a new law in 2017 called Unlawful Decryption, which makes it illegal to decrypt private encrypted information without a legitimate business purpose.

This law was created by Section 3 of House Bill 91 and is to be codified at Section 33.024 in the Texas Penal Code.

Have you been charged with Unlawful Decryption in Texas? Call criminal defense lawyer Paul Saputo at (888) 239-9305.

The law is one of three laws created by the same bill in 2017, with the others being Electronic Data Tampering and Electronic Access Interference.

What is the law about Unlawful Decryption in Texas?

Section 33.024 of the Texas Penal Code will describe the Unlawful Decryption law at subsection (a) as follows:3

(a) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally decrypts encrypted private information through deception and without a legitimate business purpose.

What is the penalty for an Unlawful Decryption conviction?

A conviction for Unlawful Decryption will be punished according to a somewhat complex scheme. By default, the offense is a Class C misdemeanor, but the punishment can be enhanced all the way up to a First Degree Felony.4

Are there any affirmative defenses for Unlawful Decryption?

There is an affirmative defense available that the decryption occurred pursuant to an agreement with the owner of the information.5


Legal References:

1House Bill 9

2House Bill 9 at Section 5-6:

SECTION 5. The change in law made by this Act applies only to an offense committed on or after the effective date of this Act. An offense committed before the effective date of this Act is governed by the law in effect on the date the offense was committed, and the former law is continued in effect for that purpose. For purposes of this section, an offense was committed before the effective date of this Act if any element of the offense occurred before that date.

SECTION 6. This Act takes effect September 1, 2017.

3Penal Code Section 33.024(a), as created by House Bill 9, Section 3

4Penal Code Section 33.024(b), (b-1) and (b-2), as created by House Bill 9, Section 3:

(b) Subject to Subsections (b-1) and (b-2), an offense under this section is a Class C misdemeanor.

(b-1) Subject to Subsection (b-2), if it is shown on the trial of the offense that the defendant acted with the intent to defraud or harm another, an offense under this section is:

(1) a Class C misdemeanor if the value of the aggregate amount involved is less than $100 or cannot be determined;

(2) a Class B misdemeanor if the value of the aggregate amount involved is $100 or more but less than $750;

(3) a Class A misdemeanor if the value of the aggregate amount involved is $750 or more but less than $2,500;

(4) a state jail felony if the value of the aggregate amount involved is $2,500 or more but less than $30,000;

(5) a felony of the third degree if the value of the aggregate amount involved is $30,000 or more but less than $150,000;

(6) a felony of the second degree if the value of the aggregate amount involved is $150,000 or more but less than $300,000; and

(7) a felony of the first degree if the value of the aggregate amount involved is $300,000 or more.

(b-2) If it is shown on the trial of the offense that the defendant knowingly decrypted privileged information, an offense under this section is:

(1) a state jail felony if the value of the aggregate amount involved is less than $2,500;

(2) a felony of the third degree if:

(A) the value of the aggregate amount involved is $2,500 or more but less than $30,000; or

(B) a client or patient of a victim suffered harm attributable to the offense;

(3) a felony of the second degree if:

(A) the value of the aggregate amount involved is $30,000 or more but less than $150,000; or

(B) a client or patient of a victim suffered bodily injury attributable to the offense; and

(4) a felony of the first degree if:

(A) the value of the aggregate amount involved is $150,000 or more; or

(B) a client or patient of a victim suffered serious bodily injury or death attributable to the offense.

5Penal Code Section 33.024(c), as created by House Bill 9, Section 3:

(c) It is a defense to prosecution under this section that the actor’s conduct was pursuant to an agreement entered into with the owner for the purpose of:

(1) assessing or maintaining the security of the information or of a computer, computer network, or computer system;
or

(2) providing other services related to security.

Published by Criminal Defense Attorney on and last modified