Definition from Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary
Shorthand label for a lengthy and complex package of federal antiterrorism and general crime control laws signed into law less than two months after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. (The legislations formal name is the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act.) The Patriot Act was reenacted in 2006. Some sections of the original law were deleted or amended. Some provisions, including the authority for roving wiretaps, expire in 2009 unless they are reenacted. Under the Patriot Act, it is a federal crime to commit dangerous and illegal acts on U.S. soil with the intent to intimidate or coerce the government or a civilian population. It is also a federal crime to hack into government computers, give financial assistance to terrorists, and to possess substances that can be used for biological or chemical weapons for nonpeaceful purposes.