Wiretapping Charges in Massachusetts
Massachusetts is quickly becoming famous for its ill-advised "wiretapping" laws. Unlike many states, in Massachusetts it is generally a crime to secretly record a conversation, even if you are a party to that conversation. In fact, unlawfully intercepting oral communications (wiretapping) doing so is a felony, punishable by up to 5 years in state prison and/or up to a $10,000 fine.
The wiretapping statute was enacted in response to developments in the state's ability to intrude upon the privacy of individuals. The legislature sought to protect personal privacy by setting out strict rules for obtaining warrants for a wiretap, and criminalizing any attempts to conduct wiretaps without such warrants. Unfortunately, the law that was once meant as a deterrent to police misconduct is now being used to shield police from accountability and to pile outrageous felony charges on people who have no reason to know that recording a public official out in the open is a crime.
The wiretapping law is frequently invoked where citizens audio record police officers in the course of their duties. There are entirely understandable reasons for someone to want to do this, but police across Massachusetts have demonstrated their hostility being recorded by bringing felony wiretapping charges against the individuals.
The Massachusetts wiretapping law is currently the subject of very serious first amendment challenges in federal court, and similar assorted challenges in state court. Additionally, to prove the charge of wiretapping, the Commonwealth must show that the recording was conducted in secret. Secrecy is an essential element of the offense that is often overlooked when someone is being charged for recording someone else in public. There are also quite a number of affirmative defenses listed in the wiretap statute that an attorney can assert on your behalf.
These are just a few of the many reasons that, without exception, if you are charged with wiretapping in Massachusetts, you should contact an attorney immediately. If you or someone you know has been charged with unlawful wiretap, or disclosing or altering the contens of a wiretap, contact me today to set up a free and confidential consultation.
See: G.L. c. 272 s. 99;