“Are my Communications Wiretapped?”
As a Criminal Defense Lawyer, I am often asked “Are my communications wiretapped?” and how prevalent the use of wiretaps or electronic monitoring of communications is by the government. There is a general concern in our society that many communications may be monitored by the government. This concern is not limited to those engaging in criminal activity.
Many are surprised to learn that the court authorized use of wiretaps or electronic monitoring by law enforcement is not as statistically widespread as one may suspect. On June 30, 2020, the United States Courts published its 2019 Wiretap Report. The report provides information as to wire, oral, or electronic intercepts that concluded between January 1, 2019 and December 31, 2019. (These statistics do not include interceptions subject to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978).
Question: How many wiretaps were authorized by federal judges in 2019?
Answer: 1,417. (a 3% decline form 2018).
Question: How many wiretaps were authorized by state judges in 2019?
Answer: 1,808. (a 22% increase from 2018).
In sum, 3,225 wiretaps were authorized in 2019.
94% of the applications for the interception of communications involved portable devices, such as cellular telephones. Narcotics investigations and Drug offenses comprised 76% of all wiretap applications in 2019.
Although Federal and state laws serve to limit surveillance to a period of 30 days, that period can be extended if a judge determines an extension is warranted. The longest state-authorized wiretap came out of New York where the original order was extended 27 times in order to complete a wiretap investigation into corruption that spanned 756 days.
What is the average cost of a wiretap? The average cost of a wiretap in 2019 was $75,160.
It is important to remember that these statistics do not include any foreign intelligence intercepts and do not include circumstances involving a consenting party to the communication.
In 2019, 10,584 people were arrested as a result of wiretap investigations.
The next time a person wonders whether communications are wiretapped, it might be useful to gain statistical perspective from the available reports. The United States Courts full 2019 Wiretap Report: Orders and Convictions Increase is available by clicking this link:
If you have a question for a Tampa Criminal Defense Lawyer, please call Attorney Ron Frey, The Frey Law Firm, LLC for a free initial consultation.