People in Illinois who have faced drug charges since mid-2013 may be interested to know about a recent California case that has the potential to affect hundreds of cases throughout the country. In the case, the Riverside District Attorney’s Office authorized around 738 wiretaps, most of which were illegal. The wiretaps resulted in cases being filed not only in California but also across the rest of the nation.
In the case, the elected district attorney had the lower-level prosecutors in his office go through wiretap requests from law enforcement. This practice runs contrary to the requirements of the Federal Wiretapping Act. Because of the significant intrusion on privacy that happens with a wiretap, the law has strict requirements for their authorization. Under that law, only the highest district attorney in a particular jurisdiction may sign off on a wiretap request.
The 9th Circuit found that the wiretap requests signed off on by the Riverside District Attorney’s Office were illegal. This means that evidence collected because of the illegal wiretaps may be thrown out of court. The illegal wiretaps resulted in hundreds of arrests.
When law enforcement agencies and prosecutors try to investigate cases in manners that do not comply with constitutional mandates, any evidence collected may be suppressed. People who are facing drug charges in cases in which illegal wiretaps were used may want to have their cases reviewed by criminal defense attorneys. If the attorney sees that the appropriate prosecutor did not review and sign off on the request, they may file constitutional motions challenging the wiretap and all resulting evidence in the case.