In recent statistics, it has been shown that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) has more than tripled its use of wiretaps and other types of electronic eavesdropping over the past decade- increasing from 3,394 in 2000, to 11,681 electronic intercepts in 2014. This year showed an increase in numbers, from the 71% increase we saw in 2012. A wire-tap allows the police to listen in on a citizen's phone calls and electronic communications.
What is more concerning is that DEA agents have also taken to making requests for wiretapping warrants directly to state prosecutors instead of making federal requests- meaning most of the requests were never even reviewed by a federal judge, so their eavesdropping devices have actually bypassed the federal courts. As a result, 60% of wiretapping requests are now done through the state instead of through a federal warrant. These statistics have also had an effect on state wiretapping statistics. Our southern neighbors down in California, for example, have experienced a 44% increase of wiretapping this last year, from 2013 alone.
The DEA has not been able to give a clear explanation as to how and why this has happened. They merely cite to drug investigations accounting for the vast majority of U.S. wiretaps (with much of that surveillance being carried out by the DEA). A DEA spokesperson stated that DEA agents were not trying to circumvent federal legal standards and protections by instead pursuing state wiretap authorizations. DEA records do not indicate which state courts have approved the ramped-up surveillance.
The Law on Wiretapping
In terms of private action (not police action) RCW 9.73.030 addresses electronic interceptions in the state of Washington. Our state's wiretapping law is a "two-party consent" law, meaning all parties must consent to being recorded. It is a crime to record someone without them knowing.
For police actions, both parties do not have to consent. However, wiretaps are considered a search and seizure under the 4th Amendment. See Katz v. U.S. (1967) and Smith v. Maryland (1979). This means that a warrant that is supported by probable cause is required in order for police to wiretap you. A “search” occurs for the purposes of a 4th Amendment violation when one's “reasonable expectation” of privacy is violated. However, the laws on police search and seizure is changing, thanks in part to the U.S. Patriot Act and changes to the federal Wiretap Act, which also now allows wiretapping on one's internet searches.
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As a former prosecutor, attorney Steve Karimi knows how to break a case down and examine all evidence to determine exactly what happened and locate the weak points in the prosecution's case. We offer aggressive and intelligent defense for adults and minors in all of misdemeanor and felony charges including drug charges. We will pour over the evidence against you and challenge everything we can, including the challenging of warrants.Contact us at 206-621-8777 to schedule a free initial consultation. A 24-hour-a-day call service is also available at 206-660-6200.