News Release ~ 11/27/2012

Former Prosecutors and Judges Join Nation’s Criminal Defense Bar to Support a Warrant Requirement for Law Enforcement Access to Email

Washington, DC (November 27, 2012) – In a letter to Senators Patrick Leahy and Charles Grassley, the Chair and Ranking Member respectively of the United States Senate Judiciary Committee, 30 former prosecutors and judges weighed in on November 21 in support of Senator Leahy’s amendment to H.R. 2471. As explained in the letter, this amendment “would provide for a much needed judicial check on when the government can access our private digital information.” Currently, and shockingly to many Americans, there is no warrant requirement for the government to access electronic communications stored by a third-party provider so long as the communication is more than 180 days old. This amendment simply puts electronic communications on the same constitutional footing as private communications sent via the U.S. Postal Service, for example.

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) organized this effort to ensure that the Senate Judiciary Committee is aware of the breadth of support across the legal community for the undiluted adoption of Senator Leahy’s amendment by the committee when it takes it up this Thursday, November 29, 2012. The letter is also clear that any effort to move in the opposite direction, for example by enabling government agencies involved in civil investigations to access such communications without a warrant, would be wholly unacceptable. As set forth in the letter, “Requiring law enforcement to obtain a warrant from a court does not prevent law enforcement from doing its job. In fact, it would place law enforcement officers on more solid ground when they access private electronic communications, and make it more likely that important evidence of crime is not thrown out in criminal cases.”

A complete copy of the letter is available here.

Contact: Ivan J. Dominguez, Director of Public Affairs and Communications, (202) 465-7662 or idominguez@nacdl.org.

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's approximately 10,000 direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.

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