Judge Finds FBI Actions Unreasonable
Conducting a search and seizure in the absence of a warrant requires a specific showing by law enforcement. The 4thAmendment to the Constitution prevents law enforcement from conducting "unreasonable" searches and seizures. Whether or not a search and seizure is considered unreasonable depends on a number of factors. In a recent case in Las Vegas, the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted a warrantless search that was found to be unreasonable. The circumstances of the search would have broad implications if found reasonable.
The FBI wanted to get into a hotel room where they hoped to find evidence of illegal gambling. Without a warrant, this is no small task. The FBI decided to turn off Internet service to the hotel room in question and then pretended to be repairmen sent to fix the problem. The "repairmen" were FBI agents wearing hidden cameras.
In finding the search to be unreasonable, the federal Judge suggested that the government could use the tactic to search the "vast majority of residences and hotel rooms in America." The FBI may have been banking on the search being found reasonable based on the consent of the accused in allowing the "repairmen" to enter the premises. While law enforcement is allowed to lie to a suspect, the act of obtaining consent to enter through false pretenses was apparently too much for the Judge to allow. Allowing the FBI to shut down someone's power, Internet, phone or cable is questionable. Allowing the FBI to do so in order to conduct a warrantless search is unreasonable.