Have you been charged with the sale of drugs, drug trafficking or manufacture, or laundering drug money as the result of a wiretap? If so, the successful defense of your case requires the knowledge and skills of an experienced drug wiretap attorney. The evidence produced through wiretaps can be devastating to the defense. It is essential that you retain the right Phoenix criminal defense lawyer who can challenge the use of the wiretap.
Drug Wiretap Defense Attorney Are You Being Charged with a Drug Crime Based on Wiretap Evidence?
Drug Wiretap Law in Arizona
The law in Arizona is referred to as a “one party consent” law. This means that although it is a crime to intercept a wire communication or an electronic communication in certain situations, the prohibition does not apply if you are a party to the communication, if you are present during the communication, or if the interception is consented to by one of the parties to the communication. In the absence of such consent, a law enforcement agency in Arizona is ordinarily permitted to institute a wiretap only pursuant to a court order, or under “emergency” conditions, as set forth in the Arizona Criminal Code. A.R.S. § 13-3001 et seq.
Facts about Drug Wiretaps
The truth about drug wiretaps is that they are not merely used in isolated instances; rather, there are thousands of wiretaps conducted which invade the privacy of countless individuals. Here are some important issues in drug wiretap cases:
- What is the drug wiretap approval process? While state and federal laws prescribe the method of obtaining judicial approval of a wiretap application, the truth is that the process in some cases is little more than a rubber stamp approval of an application by law enforcement. As a result, wiretaps are often obtained in situations where less intrusive methods of gathering information are available. Wiretap orders are also regularly issued where the scope of the wiretap is overly broad, thereby infringing on the rights of a host of people who are not even suspects or the object of a criminal investigation.
- Are drug wiretap applications ever denied by judges? Unfortunately, the answer to this question is that as a general matter, wiretap applications are approved in 99% or more of the cases in which they are sought. No wonder law enforcement officials consider wiretaps to be their ace in the hole.
- How long does a drug wiretap last? This is an issue that depends upon the circumstances of each case. Most wiretaps, however, remain in effect for longer than you would expect. Indeed, the average length of a wiretap is more than five weeks. In addition, a single wiretap order could result in thousands of intercepted communications.
- Which devices are targeted in a drug wiretap? A wiretap can involve any electronic or wire communication, but more than 95% of the applications seek to target cell phones and other portable communication devices.
In recent years, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has abuses its power and disregard the rights of U.S. citizens. In some cases, it has been called to task for its illegal behavior. Examples include a 2016 directive to DEA agents requiring them to go to a federal prosecutor before tapping phone calls or text messages. The directive was issued after it was revealed that the agency had engaged in a vast and illegal wiretapping campaign in Los Angeles.
The practice of the DEA agents had been, effectively, to shop for a sympathetic state court judge, obtain an overly-broad wiretap authorization. The agents knew that there would be less scrutiny of their requests at the state level, and they proceeded largely to bypass the feds when going for a wiretap.
Judge-shopping by the DEA agents came to light in a California drug prosecution in which it was discovered that they had requested drug wires from a local judge, and then used the wiretap order to tap phones in a neighboring county. DEA agents had also ignored their own regulations on the procedure for requesting a wiretap. Interestingly, one of the local judges regularly used by the DEA had approved 5 times as many wiretaps as any other judge in the entire country!
Successfully Challenging Wiretap Evidence in Phoenix, AZ
There are numerous avenues available to challenge the admissibility of wiretap evidence in a drug case. A few examples are:
(a) communications that were not lawfully intercepted;
(b) the order that authorized the interception was invalid because, for example, it did not provide sufficient parameters for the wiretap; and
(c) the interception did not conform to the requirements set forth in the authorizing order, such as the failure to minimize interceptions that might infringe upon the rights of others.
If you have been charged with a drug offense as the result of a wiretap, contact Feldman & Royle today for a free consultation.
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Phoenix, AZ 85004