Improper police wiretapping may foil criminal cases
New Jersey residents who face criminal charges may be interested in the implications of a series of cases that occurred in California starting in 2013. According to a widely-publicized investigation conducted by USA TODAY and other news agencies, more than 730 wiretapping actions authorized by prosecutors in the Los Angeles suburb of Riverside may have been illegal because of the way they were conducted.
Reports said that the wiretaps in question led to no less than 300 arrests and the seizure of millions of dollars' worth of property and money. At least 52,000 people had their private phone calls and text messages intercepted, and although the wiretaps originated in California, the law enforcement actions they caused took place all over the country.
Many of the wiretaps weren't personally authorized by the county's top prosecutor, who bears the sole authority to approve such requests under Federal law. As such, prosecutors may not legally be able to use the results in court. The investigation showed that nearly every one of the wiretaps that originated in Riverside were authorized by a former prosecutor's assistant who refused to comment. Although the ex-district attorney claimed that the wiretaps in question were protected by a loophole that lets subordinates approve actions when the head prosecutor is absent, publicly-available photo evidence revealed that he was in his office on some of the days that wiretaps were signed by the assistant.
Whether or not criminal charges stick depends on the evidence presented by prosecutors, but there are numerous rules governing the acquisition and use of such evidence. Those who face allegations may benefit from investigating the circumstances under which they were accused or indicted, especially when law enforcement officials engaged in actions such as wiretapping and other forms of surveillance.