A few months ago, we offered up a post about how sometimes police tactics during investigations need to be questioned. As that item observed, there are times when authorities act on presumptions of guilt. And in the zeal to enforce the law, they might forget that their first duty is to uphold the rights of individuals as protected under the Constitution.
The Constitution’s Fourth Amendment is the one that serves to protect us from unreasonable searches and seizures by the police. Unless they have a duly authorized warrant from a judge, police in West Virginia, Pennsylvania or any other state are supposed to honor a person’s right to privacy.
In cases where drug or other crimes are alleged, the consequences of a conviction can be so severe that experienced attorneys know that no stone should be left unturned in the protection of a defendant’s rights.
Wiretapping is one of those police investigative practices that can prompt significant questions of procedure. On one hand, such eavesdropping has been shown to be very useful in assembling evidence that can be used later in a court of law. On the other hand, the courts recognize that wiretapping represents a significant invasion of privacy, so police are supposed to follow strict protocols if they want to use this tactic.
A wiretap order is very much like a search warrant. To get one, police have to get approval from a judge. Typically, authorities have to show that other investigative techniques have already been tried without success and that they have enough probable cause to indicate that a tap will serve to foil serious criminal activity such as drug trafficking or terrorism.
Obviously, for this system to be successful police must always follow procedure and judges must exercise their oversight responsibilities with great care. But as everyone knows, where human beings are the actors, errors are possible. Defendants shouldn’t pay the price for those mistakes.