U.S. Sen. Steve Daines this week introduced legislation to provide Congress the time it needs to debate the proposed changes to Rule 41, which would expand the government’s ability to search computers and other digital devices.
The Review the Rule Act would delay the proposed changes to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41 from going into effect until July 2017. Without congressional action, the proposed changes will go into effect on this December.
“We cannot give the federal government a blank check to infringe on Americans’ civil liberties,” said Daines, R-Montana. “Congress needs the appropriate time to investigate the implications of this rule on Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights.”
Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41 governs the procedures and parameters for issuing search warrants, according to Daines.
Under current law, a federal judge may issue a warrant to search property located within a specific judicial district. At the urging of the Department of Justice, the Supreme Court ultimately approved two sweeping amendments to Rule 41.
According to Daines, those amendments allow a judge to issue a warrant to remotely search, copy and seize information from a device that does not have a known location, because the location has been concealed through technological means.
The amendments also allow a single judge to issue a warrant to remotely search and copy information from suspected devices across five or more districts.
Daines was joined by U.S. Sens. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Ron Wyden, D-Oregon. U.S. Reps. John Conyers, D-Michigan and Ted Poe, R-Texas, also joined.