Saturday, December 26, 2009

Privacy: An Overview of Federal Statutes Governing Wiretapping and Electronic Eavesdropping

pogowasright.org

This report provides an overview of federal law governing wiretapping and electronic eavesdropping. It also appends citations to state law in the area and contains a bibliography of legal commentary as well as the text of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). It is a federal crime to wiretap or to use a machine to capture the communications of others without court approval, unless one of the parties has given their prior consent. It is likewise a federal crime to use or disclose any information acquired by illegal wiretapping or electronic eavesdropping. Violations can result in imprisonment for not more than five years; fines up to $250,000 (up to $500,000 for organizations); in civil liability for damages, attorneys’ fees and possibly punitive damages; in disciplinary action against any attorneys involved; and in suppression of any derivative evidence. Congress has created separate but comparable protective schemes for electronic communications (e.g., e-mail) and against the surreptitious use of telephone call monitoring practices such as pen registers and trap and trace devices.

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