Massachusetts Wiretapping Charges
Massachusetts has some of the strictest wiretapping laws in the country. People sometimes refer to it as a two-party consent law. This means that you cannot secretly record a conversation without the other person’s knowledge. The law prohibits secret audio recordings over the phone and in person. That’s one reason you always hear an automated voice warning you that your call is subject to recording when you call a big company, before being placed on hold.
What is Wiretapping in Massachusetts?
In order to be convicted of wiretapping, the prosecution needs to prove that the defendant secretly recorded a private individual’s oral communication. Oral communication means “words spoken audibly and comprehensively, either in conversation or alone.” The Appeals Court has stated that at, although the entire conversation need not be intelligible, at least some of the words must be recognizable. The recording also must contain “some discernible voice” in order for it to be a violation of the wiretapping statute.
Penalties for Wiretapping
Wiretapping in Massachusetts is a felony. If you are convicted, you face up to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Defending Wiretap Charges
You need an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you fight your wiretapping charges. We can help. A recent example of our success occurred in a high-profile case of wiretapping and other charges in the Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn. Attorney Simons filed a motion to dismiss, based on a thorough investigation and well-crafted memorandum. After a hearing in which the prosecutor vigorously opposed the motion, the judge agreed and dismissed the wiretapping charge against our client.
If none of the words are recognizable, or the recording contains “no discernable voices,” we can argue that the case must be dismissed. Also, if the recording was made inadvertently, rather than intentionally, we can argue that the circumstances do not meet the requirements for wiretapping.
Up until December of 2020, the law was sometimes used against people trying to record the police during an arrest or traffic stop. On December 15, 2020, the First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that people are allowed to record their interactions with police, while the officers are “discharging their official duties.”
Editing Tape of Judicial Proceeding
A related charge under the same statute, editing a tape recording in a judicial proceeding, also carries a five-year maximum prison sentence. The charge is relatively rare. A conviction essentially requires proof that you edited or tampered with a tape recording or transcript of a court proceeding and then tried to pass it off as an accurate version.
Recordings and Photographs in Court
Massachusetts law allows the news media to record trials and certain other court proceedings in state court, while federal law prohibits even reporters from taking pictures. State court rules prohibit the use of cameras and other recording devices in the courtrooms by anyone other than a registered member of the news media.
If you’re facing wiretapping charges in Massachusetts, call us today at (781) 797-0555 for a free phone consultation.
Commonwealth v. Hyde, 434 Mass. 594 (2001)
Commonwealth v. Wright, 61 Mass.App.Ct. 790 (2004)
Commonwealth v. Manzelli, 68 Mass. App. Ct. 691, 693 (2007)