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Massive wiretapping program may have been illegal

Prosecutors in New Jersey may sometimes use evidence obtained through wiretaps while they are seeking a conviction. A wiretap is a device that is used to listen in on the phone conversations of individuals who are suspected of engaging in criminal activity. Legal authorization for a wiretap is often difficult for authorities to obtain due to federal restrictions.

According to a recent investigation, hundreds of wiretaps that were used by prosecutors in Riverside County, Calif., may have been unlawful. Since 2013, federal drug investigators in the Los Angeles suburb used about 738 wiretaps to eavesdrop on phone calls and intercept text messages. The information that authorities obtained through the wiretaps led to over 300 arrests and the seizure of millions of dollars worth of drugs and cash.

In 2014, Riverside County prosecutors were behind about one out of every five wiretaps in all of the United States. The high wiretap approval rate in the county has been blamed on the fact that the county's district attorney allowed lower-level lawyers to review wiretap applications. After the FBI was caught monitoring civil rights leaders in the 1960s, Congress barred the use of wiretaps except when a top prosecutor authorized their use. The wiretapping program in Riverside County is widely believed to be illegal.

Many of the wiretaps that were approved in Riverside County were used to prosecute individuals in other states. If a person in New Jersey is facing drug charges after an investigation that involved wiretaps, a criminal defense lawyer might be able look into the wiretaps and then file motions to suppress any evidence that was obtained unlawfully.

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