Is It an Illegal Search for Police to Listen to Calls and Read Emails?
A core principle in our laws is that all searches, including those of cell phones, emails, and phone conversations are unreasonable, unless the search or invasion is conducted by a valid warrant. This was upheld in a recent U.S. Supreme Court Decision n Riley v. California. If police listen to your phone call or read your emails without a valid warrant it is an illegal search. It could also be an illegal search if the information used to support probable cause for the warrant was obtained from an illegal source. Meaning, if the information contained in the warrant is based on an illegal search or illegal eavesdropping, the warrant fails and thus the search and anything found after the search is inadmissible or the government cannot use it against you.
Even in light of the new ruling, there is evidence that law enforcement agencies are disregarding the warrant requirement and conducting illegal searches. Advances in technologies allow the government to search, listen, and record conversations without leaving much of a footprint this is not to say that the conduct if valid. It just means it is extremely difficult to discovery an illegal search. Many police officers justify this illegal search and violation of the Fourth Amendment as getting the “bad guy.” The problem is this leads to sloppy and lazy police investigation that puts the entire case at issue for dismissal.
Police agencies and prosecutors have obtained legal warrants that resulted in convictions for years without issue. Thus, the warrant requirement does not prohibit police investigations, arrests, or convictions. It is our protections against unreasonable contact and illegal search by the government. It also protects our First Amendments rights to privacy.
An officer must develop probable cause to believe that continual criminal activity is on going. Based on a sound and legal investigation the officer then presents this evidence to a judge. If a judge believes that probable causes exists to issue a warrant, then the officer may listen in to phone calls, read email, search a cell phone, or computer.
If obtained, a warrant must be specific, limited in scope, name the items to be searched, and based on probable cause otherwise it could result in an illegal search.
What are Your Rights?
You have a Fourth Amendment Right to be free from unreasonable governmental conduct. You have a right to privacy in your things, belongings, and home. This does not mean all conduct is prohibited but only that which is unreasonable. The justification for a surveillance policy for the National Security Administration is not extended to all law enforcement agencies. Meaning local cops do not have the right to listen in to phone conversations, read your emails, and/or other surveillance methods. This does not mean to say that it is not happening, what it means is that if it does your rights were violated.
This post seeks to give information on warrants and governmental searches and seizures. For more information or to discuss your specific case, please contact us directly at (303) 747-4686 or click CONTACT US.