If you have been accused of violating wiretapping laws, you may be facing several years in federal prison if you are convicted. This is a serious crime that indicates the intentional act of violating someone else’s right to privacy. Because of the severity of the charges that you face and the penalties associated with a conviction, you need to develop a strong defense. Wiretapping is considered to be a white-collar crime, but be aware that not all white-collar criminal defense lawyers have the same level of expertise in this unique niche. Before you search for an experienced lawyer, however, you should learn more about the nature of the charges in front of you and the steps your lawyer may take to defend you against the charges.
Understanding Wiretapping Laws
The United States passed the Wiretap Act to address the problem of electronic eavesdropping. This act was amended and strengthened by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act in 1986. Today’s federal laws specifically prohibit an individual or an entity from secretly recording communications that were intended to be kept private. These communications include phone calls, in-person conversations, text messages, emails and more. Common devices that have been used in wiretapping cases include smartphones, drones, nanny cams, hidden microphones and more.
However, there are many exceptions to the wiretapping laws. For example, a warrant could give law enforcement officials the right to monitor communications without the parties’ knowledge. Another exception is when one person is aware that the communication is being recorded. This means that the person recording the conversation can be in the room and part of that conversation or that the person recording the conversation has the consent of one or both of the other individuals.
Federal wiretapping laws cover more than the physical act of recording a private conversation. The laws also prohibit another party from possessing illegally obtained communications, using them for any purpose and disclosing that information to other parties. Keep in mind that you do not need to be successful in your efforts. The law covers the intentional interception of communications and the attempt to intercept communications. It also covers oral communications and electronically-conveyed communications. In addition, the possession of wiretapping equipment is prohibited.
Penalties for Wiretapping Charges
There are several types of wiretapping charges that a defendant may face. In some cases, defendants face multiple types of wiretapping charges as well as other types of charges. If you are convicted of intentional wiretapping or endeavoring to wiretap, you may be imprisoned for up to five years. Individuals can also be fined up to $250,000, and organizations may be fined up to $500,000. If you are found guilty of distributing, manufacturing, possessing or advertising wiretapping equipment, you may face similar penalties. Comparable penalties are also in place for using or disclosing the information collected through illegal wiretapping.
Additional penalties may also apply in some situations. For example, the government may seize the wiretapping equipment. In addition, if the offense resulted in the victim’s financial loss or in your financial gain, you may have to pay a fine that is up to twice that amount. A civil lawsuit may also be filed against you by the victim.
Defense Strategies for Wiretapping
The one-party consent rule is an acceptable defense that has been used in a range of wiretapping cases over the years. Through this defense, the attorney will attempt to prove that the defendant did not intend to intercept the communication. Otherwise, you have the right to record the communication provided you are a contributing party in the conversation. The courts have consistently upheld the fact that consent can be given explicitly or implicitly. However, the consent defense is only applicable if the communication was made freely as opposed to coerced.
Another defense strategy is to rely on a lack of intent. Be aware that the defendant’s lack of knowledge of the law is not an acceptable defense. However, the unintentional interception of a conversation can be used as a defense.
Contact a Defense Lawyer Today
Have you been accused of a violation of federal wiretapping laws? Prior to going to trial, your attorney may work to have charges reduced or dropped. A plea bargain may be arranged through the work of your attorney. If the matter goes to court, your attorney will require ample time to prepare the defense. With these factors in mind, the time to request an initial consultation with a defense lawyer is today.
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