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Join the conversation! There are now 15 comments on “Police vs Privacy pg 36
  1. pingo1387 says

    Do people normally take shifts when working with a wiretap? I imagine that one person doing it all would be very stressed and sleep-deprived. Taking shifts seems like the logical thing to do.

    • The detectives certainly do. But though prosecutors often work on these in pairs (depending on how their DA’s office is run), they tend to work together rather than tag-teaming.

      There’s a reason why so many wires happen to be their prosecutor’s first one. Many don’t want to do another one afterwards. This lack of experience can be a bonus for a defense attorney who knows what to look for.

  2. austin says

    i like the pi clock in the back.

  3. I’m beginning to see why the law is so lenient on private security cameras; they allow investigators to use surveillance from private citizens. Since it’s technically not a police action but evidence gathered at the scene by a potential witness, it cuts through all this red tape like a chainsaw. Investigators can (with permission, I assume) just take tapes from a nearby store/building/lightpost and use that instead of climbing through all these horrendous loops and hurdles here.

    Or am I missing something with that? Please correct me on any false assumptions.

    • You’re right that, in general, the law doesn’t suppress evidence that wasn’t gathered by law enforcement. The Constitution protects you from excesses of your government, not from stuff other private individuals are doing.

      But in the eavesdropping area, it gets a little sticky. Because the invasion of privacy is so, uh, …invasive.

      It’s against the law for private citizens to secretly record on other people’s private communications. (There are variations from state to state on what’s acceptable, but this is enough for now.) That’s why private security cameras usually only record video, and not audio. So those kinds of recordings tend not to involve wiretap issues.

      But then there are GoPro cameras people wear, and Google Glass, which do record both. And of course the ubiquitous cell phone video. Even these, however, aren’t usually intercepting private communications that nobody expected to be overheard, because the filmer was right there hearing it all herself.

      But let’s say a private citizen DID break the wiretap laws, and set up a camera that surreptitiously recorded video and audio of private communications. Or tapped someone’s phone or Skype session. In federal court, the government still would NOT be allowed to use it as evidence, even though it wasn’t the government violating your privacy rights. The invasion of privacy is just too much.

      Eavesdropping aside, however, most of the time when evidence was gathered by a private individual, and not by the government, the Fourth Amendment DOES NOT APPLY. There’s no suppression issue, because the police didn’t do anything wrong.

      Unless, of course, the individual was acting as an agent of the police — at their request, under their direction, or otherwise acting on their behalf. You see this a lot with informants. In that case, because law enforcement was directing what the private individual was doing, the Fourth Amendment WILL apply, and all the suppression issues remain in play.

  4. Seeing the hoops these folks have to go through for a wiretap makes me feel much better — I’m glad TV is wrong yet again. But here’s my question: Is this scenario what is *typical* of this process, or it is what’s *ideal*?

    The cynic in me is saying, “Sure, that’s what’s SUPPOSED to happen, but in real life the DA is more likely to be a lot more accommodating, and judges aren’t nearly so picky.”

    So what’s the case? How close to typical is your scenario? (Please! Restore my faith!)

    • Actually, I’ve left out some of the stuff they have to do (stuff that is just as likely to lead to suppression if done wrong). And the feds have even more internal procedural hurdles, though they’re starting to streamline their process. That’s one reason why the feds tend not to do anywhere near as many wires as state law enforcement does.

      This example is simplified, but it’s probably close to reality in most jurisdictions. As with everything else, though, how accurate this is will vary from county to county, with different prosecutors’ offices having different philosophies and levels of experience. (Though experience isn’t necessarily a good indicator — I’ve seen applications from places that do lots of wires, that were so improper it was astounding. But the judges there didn’t know any better, or didn’t care, and had kept granting them.) And individual judges vary in how carefully they read the applications.

      And, as in any suppression issue, there are judges who’ll make bad rulings later on. Stuff that should get suppressed winds up being allowed into evidence anyway. You’ll see that kind of thing happen especially where the crime was notorious, the judge is convinced of guilt, and/or it would mean throwing away the fruits of a very long and expensive government investigation.

      For the most part, though, I’d say this is close to the mark.

  5. Robert Montrose says

    “Forest for the trees,” my God, with that much paper, Pi will have cut down a whole forest by the time she’s done, and then there won’t be either! Any chance a modern prosecutor can do much of this with computer software and cut down on the coffee-stained paper?

    • I would guess in general probably not. These are the kind of things that are going to need to be signed for, and/or go into records. Hard copy records are a lot harder to tamper with than digital.

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