A wiretap is not a new method for obtaining information. Far from it.
But how intrusive is a wiretap, who can use it and what are the rules for employing this kind of tool in an investigation?
A little history
During the Civil War, both Union and Confederate soldiers intercepted each other’s telegraph wires enabling one side to splice its line to the line of the enemy. However, some believe that official government wiretapping began in New York City. In 1895, the New York Police Board banned using “stool pigeons,” or police informants, which increased the practice of wiretapping as an alternative means of collecting information.
Rules and regulations
A wiretap, whereby police can listen to phone calls, read text messages and obtain GPS data is the most intrusive method available for securing information. Because of this, rules for the use of a wiretap are stringent and the police must adhere to regulations before the court will provide authorization. Where wiretaps were once used only for investigations into illegal drug activities, they are now used in matters related to various white-collar crimes.
Law enforcement officers are sometimes in too much of a hurry to use a wiretap to secure information on a suspect. In addition, a judge who is not experienced with wiretap regulations may fail to notice that certain requirements are missing in a case he or she is hearing. Mistakes occur with reference to the period of time a wiretap covers and to the rules pertaining to the sealing of wiretaps. In building a defense, knowledge of the rules and experience with the successful handling of previous cases combine to produce the best outcome possible.