News Release

Nation's Criminal Defense Bar Welcomes Introduction of Bipartisan Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) Modernization Act of 2017

Washington, DC (July 27, 2017) - The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) welcomes the introduction of the bipartisan "ECPA Modernization Act of 2017," co-sponsored by Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and introduced today in the U.S. Senate. The time has long past for Congress to update the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) that governs how law enforcement can access our digital communications. Written before smartphones, emails, or electronic communications were fixtures of everyday life, ECPA has long needed to be brought into the 21st century.

"NACDL applauds Senators Lee and Leahy for introducing bipartisan legislation that updates our nation's laws to ensure that the Fourth Amendment continues in the digital age to provide protections against unreasonable searches and seizures," said NACDL President Barry J. Pollack. "This legislation would implement recommendations made by NACDL in its white paper, Electronic Surveillance & Government Access to Third Party Records. These steps are needed to ensure that electronic communications and cloud data have the same Fourth Amendment protections from unreasonable government intrusion today as hard copy documents have had since the founding of our country. Congress should act quickly to pass this important legislation."

Today’s legislation affirms that Fourth Amendment protections apply to the content of electronic communications by requiring law enforcement officers to obtain a warrant to access the content of most electronic communications and cloud-stored content from third-party providers. It also ensures that the government is required to give notice when accessing such communications. The bill would also require the government to seek a warrant to obtain geolocation tracking data and includes strong suppression remedies to ensure that law enforcement does not overreach. 

To learn more about NACDL's work in the area of privacy and the Fourth Amendment, visit And NACDL's white paper, Electronic Surveillance & Government Access to Third Party Records is available here.

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Ivan J. Dominguez, NACDL Director of Public Affairs & Communications, (202) 465-7662 or 

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 many thousands of 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 legal system.