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Massachusetts Legislator Seeks to Expand Secret Wiretapping

photobooth.jpgMassachusetts government and law enforcement officials have introduced proposals in the hopes of expanding the limits of secret wiretapping. The reasoning behind the expansion is the purported goal of more easily gathering evidence against criminal suspects, such as with drug crimes.

According to state Attorney General Martha Coakley, the current wire tapping law has not been revised since 1968, and officials feel that it has become outdated. Coakley’s office released a statement summarizing the proposed changes. Most notably, authorities would still need a warrant to wiretap suspects, but the targets would not have to be members of a bona fide organized crime group, such as the Mafia. Additionally, once a warrant has issued for a wiretap under the new law, the revisions would extend the amount of time it could be used from 15 days to 30 days, which the statement claims is consistent with federal law
As a defense attorney, these proposals raise many concerns regarding the rights of criminal suspects. The intended purpose for using wiretaps, is to target individuals who may have sophisticated methods of evading law enforcement, such as those involved in organized crime. The use of wiretaps could lead to monitoring of individuals’ private conversations for long periods of time, and may additionally impinge on the privacy rights of the innocent individual engaged on the other end of the conversation. This could amount to the sort of unreasonable searches and seizures that are protected against by the Fourth Amendment.

The current law states that, “The general court further finds that the uncontrolled development and unrestricted use of modern electronic surveillance devices pose grave dangers to the privacy of all citizens of the commonwealth.” For this reason, the secret use of these recording devices by private individuals is prohibited, and the scope of use by law enforcement is restricted solely to the investigation of organized crime. Unlawfully conducting secret recordings is punishable by up to $10,000 and 5 years in prison.

Additionally, in order for a warrant to issue, three requirements must be met. A warrant may only issue if there is: (1) a showing of probable cause that a crime has been, is being, or is about to be committed, and that evidence of that crime, or information that might lead to evidence or will lead to finding the person believed to have committed or otherwise related to the commission of the crime will be found; (2) a showing that the normal investigative procedures have been attempted and have not worked, or seem unlikely to work if tried; and (3) a sworn statement in accordance with additional requirements.

Patrick J. Murphy is a Boston Massachusetts criminal defense attorney whose entire practice is dedicated to Massachusetts criminal defense. For nearly 20 years, Attorney Murphy has been devoted to aggressively and successfully defending clients accused of crimes, and providing representation on a wide range of criminal defense matters.

To schedule a confidential consultation, you can contact us online, or call 617-367-0450 24/7.

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Pretrial Motions in Massachusetts OUI Cases Can Often Tip the Scale in Favor of the Defendant, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published July 12, 2012
Massachusetts Residents Face Charges of Drug Trafficking as a Result of a Boston-Area Drug Sweep, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published July 16, 2012