The Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures of you and your property by the government. Remember, though, that the Fourth Amendment was ratified in 1789, a time when the concept of computers and specifically the ability to access property instantly from anywhere in the world via the internet was unthinkable. Nowadays, law enforcement organizations like the FBI have the ability to hack into personal computers anywhere in the country and indeed the world and gather information that might be used against you in building a criminal investigation and prosecuting you, but the FBI must still comply with the prohibitions of the Fourth Amendment and the relevant federal rules of criminal procedure. At the start of December, a new rule made it all the more easier for the FBI to legally hack into computers nationwide from any vantage point, which will make the private computer data of all residents, including victims of crime, more susceptible to search and seizure by the government.
How Rule 41 Makes it Easier for Your Computer/Files to Be Hacked
Under the provisions of the newly amended Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which went into effect December 1, FBI agents and other intelligence agents may now obtain a warrant to hack into any computer anywhere in the country by getting a single signature from a federal magistrate judge from any federal district in the country if the target of the warrant is using decryption software or other types of tools to make the location of their data anonymous.
Previously, an agent would have had to ask a judge in the district in which the data to be seized was located to sign off on the warrant. Anytime a federal judge issues a warrant which justifies a search and/or seizure in accord with the Fourth Amendment, that judge must be convinced that the law enforcement representatives seeking the warrant have sufficiently demonstrated probable cause that a crime occurred and the location to be searched contains evidence of that crime. Thus, judges have the discretion to either issue the warrant or deny issuing the warrant.
Under the new law, agents no longer have to select among only the magistrate judges in a given federal district in deciding who is likely to issue the warrant. Critics worry that the new rule means agents will be able to more easily obtain a warrant to remotely hack a private computer or server by simply going to the judge most likely to grant the warrant, regardless of where that judge is in the country.
Notably, warrants can be issued to search any computer allegedly involved in a federal crime, regardless of whether the computer belongs to an alleged perpetrator or a victim.
Tough Criminal Defense in Your Arrest or Investigation
Oklahoma City criminal defense attorney Patrick Quillian has the knowledge, experience, and tenacity to fight on your behalf towards a closed investigation, dismissal of charges, not guilty verdict, or other favorable outcome. Contact the office of J. Patrick Quillian, Attorney at Law, today at 405.294.4448 to schedule a free consultation to see what his criminal defense team can do for you.