Review of California Espionage Cases and Defenses
Espionage is a very serious crime in the United States. It could merit significant criminal penalties.
If you stand accused of espionage, you will need to contact a criminal defense lawyer to pursue a successful outcome.
Espionage refers to gathering and dispensing highly-classified information. There are several different types of espionage, ranging from international espionage meant to injure an entire nation to corporate espionage meant to leak trade secrets or hurt competitors.
Corporate espionage, which is often called economic espionage, is the unlawful practice of investigating a competing company with the intent to gain a business advantage over them.
For example, the investigation could be a trade secret like an exclusive formula exclusive to that company, or specifications of a specific product. Corporate espionage charges are serious and often carry severe penalties.
Just after World War I, the United States federal government passed the Espionage Act of 1917, which prohibited interference with military operations and support of U.S. enemies.
This Act still forms the basis for the case against many modern acts of espionage.
In California, espionage can also refer to any situation in which one entity obtains confidential information from another in an illicit manner.
One law that governs some acts of corporate espionage is the Uniform Trade Secrets Act or similar legislation at Cal. Civil Code § § 3426-3426.11.
If an individual receives a conviction for espionage, they can expect a sentence of many years in jail. If you stand accused of espionage, you need to hire aggressive representation as soon as possible.
Our Los Angeles criminal lawyers are providing additional information below.
Common Types of California Espionage Cases
While acts of international espionage by spies seeking to take down foreign governments may seem extreme, it's often the case that espionage boils down to tactics between competing companies.
Types of espionage that occur in California include:
- corporate espionage,
- industrial espionage,
- recruitment of spies,
- cyber spying,
- trade theft.
What are the Different Types of Trade Secret Theft in California?
Corporate and industrial espionage make up two common forms of espionage in California.
Trade secrets normally include private marketing information, business techniques, software, formulas, and list of customers.
It also includes other crucial business information that gives them an advantage over their competition.
Information is normally considered a trade secret if it's only known by certain high-ranking employees within the company.
Further, the information is so important that security measures have been put in place to guard the secrecy.
California Penal Code 499(c) PC makes it a crime to steal trade secrets, which is described as information of a business that has value for not being known to the public.
Common examples of these types of espionage, crimes that often deal with trade secrets, include:
- stealing another company's formula,
- bribing someone from another company to obtain access to insider information,
- falsely misrepresenting oneself to obtain access to insider information,
- using electronic measures to obtain illicit intelligence about another company's procedures,
What is a Trade Secret?
Espionage, when it's of the corporate or industrial variety, often centers on the gathering and transmission of trade secrets. Examples of trade secrets may include:
- new or unpatented information,
- customer lists,
- marketing strategies,
- recipes, formulas, techniques, or other business processes
The type of information that a company may consider to be a ‘trade secret' will likely be:
- unknown to anyone outside of the company,
- known within the company only to relevant staff.
- protected or established as guarded information,
- something that competitors would have a hard time duplicating.
In many cases, trade secrets receive a layer of protection through non-disclosure agreements between a company and its employees.
What is “Misappropriation” in California?
The specific version of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act that governs Californian acts of trade secret theft refers to the illicit act as ‘misappropriation.'
‘Misappropriation' happens whenever one entity acquires a trade secret while knowing that the trade secret in question was made available through illicit means.
These illicit means may include bribery, theft, misrepresentation, breach of security, or other measures that a person or entity may take to obtain protected information.
Misappropriation also includes the common scenario when a former employee discloses or uses a trade secret without consent.
Penalties for Convicted Acts of Espionage
The specific penalties you may face if you stand accused of espionage in California will depend upon the details of your case.
However, as corporate, industrial, and international espionage are all severe issues, you can expect that the associated consequences could be severe.
Violating California or federal espionage statutes could yield the following penalties:
- prison terms of up to 15 years,
- fines of up to $5M.
Victims of trade secret theft can also work to pursue financial compensation, as well as attorney fees and other punitive damages.
In other words, the financial repercussions of a corporate or industrial espionage conviction could be catastrophic.
Violating Penal Code 499(c) theft of trade secret is a felony punishable by up to 3 years in jail and fine up to $5,000.
Criminal Defense for California Espionage Cases
If you are accused of the white collar crime of espionage, then you are facing a tough battle and will need to retain the best criminal defense lawyers.
Our law firm has the skill and resources to defend clients who are facing any type of espionage allegations or charges.
The punishments listed above could very easily derail your entire life, as well as the lives of your loved ones.
Persons facing espionage accusations need to work with experienced criminal attorneys to build a strong case as early as they possibly can.
At Eisner Gorin, LLP, we work hard to ensure that each of our clients receives the best possible defense.
As espionage can be a particularly severe crime with associated severe ramifications, we encourage you to reach out to us as soon as you learn of the allegations against you.
It might be possible to avoid the filing of formal charges through prefiling intervention.
Call our office to review the details of the case at (310) 328-3776, or contact us online.