State lines won’t protect privacy of suspected Maryland criminals

Maryland’s Court of Appeals has reaffirmed the legality of interstate wiretapping and upheld the conviction of a man charged for trafficking marijuana. The defendant was charged for driving several pounds of marijuana from Florida to Maryland, where law enforcement arrested him and used evidence obtained through cell phone eavesdropping — across multiple state lanes — to achieve a conviction.

Appealing the conviction, the defendant challenged the original Electronic Surveillance Act. The defendant’s attorney argued that the law requires the police to keep their monitoring operations within state lines and terminate active operations when a state border is crossed. The opinion of one dissenting judge seemed to agree, posing that the tapped cell phone must be in the state where warrant was obtained or “its reach could be anywhere in the United States and, indeed, the world.”

Law enforcement, particularly the branches in pursuit of drug crime convictions, has reason to be overjoyed about this ruling. In small states like Maryland with various neighboring states, law enforcement can run interstate wire taps as they please with no regard for state lines or changes in jurisdiction.

The defense says that interstate use of wiretaps is an dangerous invasion of privacy. Essentially, law enforcement can eavesdrop on a supposed suspect from state to state with nothing more than suspicion as justification. They see the ruling as supporting a blatant violation of civil rights and are considering an appeal to the U.S Supreme Court.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, “Court upholds cell phone monitoring across state lines,” Yvonne Wenger, May 3, 2012

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