A wiretap is a technology used to intercept and monitor real-time conversations. Most commonly, officials intercept phone conversations, but wiretapping technology can also intercept internet usage and e-mail correspondence.
Many people are fearful about wiretaps, but they are not predominantly a part of investigations. Even though it allows investigators to get evidence of criminal activity, it requires oversight and the government cannot legally intercept the communications of just anyone.
All law enforcement officers must provide probable cause for the use of wiretaps. They need to establish that the wiretap would provide evidence of a felony-level violation of federal laws. Then, an impartial judge must give the law enforcement agency permission to utilize wiretaps.
Judges often have concerns about violating the rights of innocent people, so this is a strict process. They give the government agents strict instructions on how to use the wiretap to avoid violating the rights of innocent citizens. When used without following instructions, the court will throw evidence obtained illegally out of the case.
Types of cases with wiretapping
Wiretapping is common in investigations at the state and federal levels. They often involve drug conspiracies or drug crimes. It is also common in fraud, insider trading or white-collar crimes. The DEA, FBI, Secret Service and the SEC use wiretaps in their investigations, but state agencies may use them also.
Wiretapping complicates cases and that is why you need to contact an attorney if you believe an agency used wiretapping against you. Even though there are strict laws and procedural rules associated with them, it is normal to have concerns about their use.