Massachusetts 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Martha Coakley, the current wire tapping law has not been revised since 1968, and officials feel that it has become outdated.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.