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Illegal wiretaps led to hundreds of arrests for drugs

Californians who are facing or have been convicted of drug charges may be interested in a recent case coming out of Riverside. In that case, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found that illegal wiretaps were issued in around 738 cases, resulting in hundreds of arrests and the seizure of millions in cash and drugs across the country.

The Federal Wiretapping Act is very strict on how wiretap orders can be issued. Under the law, a wiretap must be sought by the highest prosecutor in the requesting jurisdiction. In the Riverside case, the number of wiretaps increased by four times under the former district attorney's tenure. Instead of the DA reviewing law enforcement wiretap requests and authorizing them himself, he instead delegated that duty to lower-level prosecutors in his office. This was in direct violation of the law.

When evidence is collected illegally, it can be suppressed. This could mean the hundreds of cases filed could be thrown out of court. The fruits of illegal searches generally cannot be used as evidence in criminal cases. Reportedly, in many of the cases following the illegal wiretaps, the defense was not provided with the illegal wiretap information. Sources do not indicate how many of those resulted in conviction.

People facing current drug charges or those who have been convicted of drug offenses since mid-2013 may want to seek consultations with a criminal defense attorney. A lawyer might be able to determine whether a wiretap was used and then check to see whether the appropriate prosecutor signed off on it. If they find that the law wasn't followed, the attorney may then fight for suppression of the evidence. In some instances, cases involving illegal wiretapping may be reopened.

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