Wiretapping (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
A form of electronic eavesdropping accomplished by seizing or overhearing communications by means of a concealed recording or listening device connected to the transmission line.
Wiretapping is a particular form of ELECTRONIC SURVEILLANCE that monitors telephonic and telegraphic communication. The introduction of such surveillance raised fundamental issues concerning personal privacy. Since the late 1960s, law enforcement officials have been required to obtain a SEARCH WARRANT before placing a wiretap on a criminal suspect. Under the Federal Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C.A. 151 et seq.), private citizens are prohibited from intercepting any communication and divulging its contents.
Police departments began tapping phone lines in the 1890s. The placing of a wiretap is relatively easy. A suspect's telephone line is identified at the phone company's switching station and a line, or "tap," is run off the line to a listening device. The telephone conversations may also be recorded.
The U.S. Supreme Court, in the 1928 case of OLMSTEAD V. UNITED STATES, 277 U.S. 438, 48 S. Ct. 564, 72 L. Ed. 944, held that the tapping of a telephone line did not violate the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unlawful SEARCHES AND SEIZURES, so long as the police had not trespassed on the property of the person whose line was tapped. Justice LOUIS D. BRANDEIS argued...
(The entire section is 872 words.)
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