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Mon January 28, 2013
AG Martha Coakley Pushes to Expand Wiretap Laws
Notice how in movies and on television, police tap landlines? Sometimes pay phones?
Attorney General Martha Coakley pushed for a bill Monday to update the state's wiretapping laws in an effort to combat violent crime.
"Not only has there been a huge change in the reality of criminal activity in our streets but the realities of electronic communication have left our police and prosecutors literally trying to fight some of these battles with one hand behind our back," Coakley said.
Criminals now communicate almost exclusively on cell phones and pagers, Coakley said. But the state's current wiretapping laws have not been updated since 1968.
In order to investigate homicides, gangs, drug dealing and other violent crime, the definition of "wire communication" must include modern electronic devices, Coakley said. And she wants to expand the length of time one could tap a wire from 15 days to 30 days.
The bill is expected to draw opposition from defense attorneys. But one former critic of wiretapping, Democratic State Rep. Gene O'Flaherty of Chelsea, said some change is needed.
"I've had great trepidations about intrusions into privacy," O'Flaherty said.
The bill would keep in place the requirement for law enforcement to show probable cause for a crime and obtain a warrant from a judge. A hearing on the bill has yet to be scheduled.