Wiretaps in Federal Prosecutions | Florida

Wiretaps - An Overview of Federal Statutes Governing Wiretapping and Electronic Eavesdropping


Wiretaps in Federal Prosecutions

A friend at the Federal Defender’s Office in Florida just sent us this information on Wiretaps in Federal Prosecution and  provided us with a new Congressional Research Service report entitled “Privacy: An Overview of Federal Statutes Governing Wiretapping and Electronic Eavesdropping.” It is comprehensive and should be useful to anyone with a case in which wiretaps are an issue. Some excerpts are below and a download of the complete document is available below.:


“Unless otherwise provided, Title III/ECPA outlaws wiretapping and electronic eavesdropping; possession of wiretapping or electronic eavesdropping equipment; use or disclosure of information obtained through illegal wiretapping or electronic eavesdropping; and disclosure of information secured through court-ordered wiretapping or electronic eavesdropping, in order to obstruct justice, 18 U.S.C. 2511. Elsewhere, federal law proscribes:
  • unlawful access to stored communications, 18 U.S.C. 2701;
  • unlawful use of a pen register or a trap and trace device, 18 U.S.C. 3121; and
  • abuse of eavesdropping and search authority or unlawful disclosures under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, 50 U.S.C. 1809, 1827.”

The report summarizes:

“At the heart of Title III/ECPA lies the prohibition against illegal wiretapping and electronic eavesdropping, 18 U.S.C. 2511(1), that bans:

  • any person from
  • intentionally
  • intercepting, or endeavoring to intercept,
  • wire, oral or electronic communications
  • by using an electronic, mechanical or other device
  • unless the conduct is specifically authorized or expressly not covered, e.g. one of the parties to the conversation has consent to the interception
  • the interception occurs in compliance with a statutorily authorized, (and ordinarily judicially supervised) law enforcement or foreign intelligence gathering interception,
  • the interception occurs as part of providing or regulating communication services,
  • certain radio broadcasts, and in some places, spousal wiretappers.”

The complete report is available here,