COMMENT: The 2016 Amendments to Criminal Rule 41: National Search Warrants to Seize Cyberspace, “Particularly” Speaking

Devin M. Adams*

George Orwell‘s dystopia, with the ever-watchful Big Brother, has seemingly become a reality with the recently passed amendments to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Rule 41, governing searches and seizures, now permits magistrate judges to authorize agents—under a single warrant—to “remotely access,” and simultaneously search, copy and seize information from an infinite number of unknown electronic devices in multiple districts anywhere in the country. The unlimited jurisdiction provision is triggered when a device‘s location is obscured through “technological means,” or if agents are investigating computer crimes in five or more districts—regardless of whether the locations of the innumerable search targets are known. Absent clairvoyance, this begs the question of how Fourth Amendment warrant requirements are applied to such a sweeping search.

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* J.D. Candidate 2017, University of Richmond School of Law. B.S., 2012, Utah Valley University. I owe a great debt of gratitude to Professor John G. Douglass for his invaluable feedback over the numerous discussions we had throughout the course of this project, and above all, for inspiring me as a writer and advocate. The quality of this piece is especially credited to phenomenal editors, like Katherine Lehnen, and the exemplary members of the University of Richmond Law Review who have made this project possible.