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Supreme Court Expands Hacking Power to Federal Agencies and Officers

The progress of technology generally moves at a speed faster than the laws are able to catch up; this is usually because legal change requires time and a majority view that the change is necessary. This change is built on cases, legal precedent, the changes of the time and a shifting societal view. The Supreme Court took a significant step this April when it updated its Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and included a laundry list of changes, specifically the expansion of government intrusion into private citizens’ lives and effects.

The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure

According to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which outlines and provides guidelines for how criminal proceedings run in the federal courts’ system, the judges’ federal authorization for Fourth Amendment search and seizures provide that they can only sign warrants and authorize searches and seizures in jurisdictions where the judge rules. There have only been a few limited circumstances in the past where the judge was permitted to authorize a search and/or seizure outside of his/her jurisdiction; generally this authorization outside one’s territory was appropriate where a tracking device used by federal agents would be attached to a vehicle that could move through multiple jurisdictions.

The Change to the Rules: Jurisdiction Is No Longer Has Defined Boundaries for Judges

The recent amendment to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure has permitted judges to issue warrants to search and seize any type of data that is stored on a computer, even if that computer is not in the judge’s jurisdiction, and in particular, if the computer is in an unknown location. The past rule required the federal agency to know exactly where the computer was stored before it could be included in a warrant; now, the implications of this change provide that a judge’s authorization could reach thousands of computers and their stored data no matter if the computer is one mile away or thousands of miles away. The new change would allow a federal agency, like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), to examine the computers of innocent people to investigate cybercrimes.

The Defense of the Supreme Court’s Ruling

In defense of the modification to the current Federal Rules, the Supreme Court stated that the amendment brought up to speed the ever-evolving and technologically advancing world. The rules, as previously written, were for the tangible and physical spaces; the law’s amendment considers the move to the intangible where important data is no longer hidden physically but is stored out of reach. The new amendment would even the playing field for the federal officers and agencies, as defended by the Supreme Court.

The Opponents of the New Rule and Their Biggest Concerns

Those that are opponents of the new rule cite their two biggest concerns: first, their concern revolving around the invasion of privacy of those who are innocent and maybe are only tangentially involved in the cybercrime, especially as victims. The second concern goes further into the requirements of the Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable government intrusion; in the past, warrants had to be extremely specific, noting what should be searched, why it should be searched, how it would be searched, etc. In this amendment, there is no requirement for that type of specificity and judges may unknowingly permit an exhaustive search of innocent people, with little to no connection to the issue at hand, but who are somehow encapsulated by the warrant.

The rule is not yet set in stone. Congress has six months to change or ban the passing of the bill before it automatically becomes law.

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale

If you or a loved one has been arrested for a committing a crime, it is important to speak with an experienced defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik who can advocate on your behalf if you were a victim of an unreasonable search and seizure. Contact Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation in the Fort Lauderdale area.

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