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"Wiretapping" Charges May Be Oddest Ever Recorded 439

netbuzz writes "Guy kicks up a fuss at a Massachusetts car-repair shop, employees call the police, guy allegedly gives them a hard time, too, and they charge the fellow with a variety of expectable charges: disorderly conduct, resisting arrest ... and 'unlawful wiretapping and possessing a device for wiretapping.' The device? A digital voice recorder. Massachusetts is one of only 12 states that prohibit the recording of a conversation unless all parties to it are aware it's being recorded."
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'Wiretapping' Charges May Be Oddest Ever Recorded

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  • Lie to me! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Thursday September 10, 2009 @10:49AM (#29378595) Homepage Journal

    Illinois is one of theose twelve states. I refer to it as the "liar's law". There is no other reason I can't record a conversation in a public place except that the politicians don't want their lies revealed.

    Well, maybe there are other secrets they want kept that aren't lies -- like their extramarital affairs. These 12 states, including mine, must have some incredibly immoral and hypocritical legislators.

    However, I'll bet that the wiretapping charge doesn't stick. These days the cops make all sorts of spurious charges and the DA plea bargains the charges down. I'll bet he pays a few huundred bucks fine for a misdemeanor.

    Oh wait, strike that -- gambling is iolegal here, too.

  • by popo ( 107611 ) on Thursday September 10, 2009 @10:50AM (#29378627) Homepage

    Does that mean there are no video surveillance cameras in Massachusetts? Or is the owner of every single surveillance camera breaking the law?

  • Wiretapping? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Monkeedude1212 ( 1560403 ) on Thursday September 10, 2009 @10:54AM (#29378679) Journal

    Doesn't Wiretapping require you to use the recording device to record data traveling through wires?

    If I carry an old Casette Deck around with me and Record everything on a bus ride - is that considered Wire Tapping?

    They need to at least rename the law because I would have thought recording a conversation albeit discreetly would not be considered wire-tapping.

  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Thursday September 10, 2009 @11:16AM (#29378993) Journal
    I don't recall which state it was in, but there was a story on /. a while ago about someone being arrested because they had a sound and video recorder monitoring their front door and recorded a conversation with a policeman on their porch without first notifying him that he was being monitored.
  • Street Cred (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mindbrane ( 1548037 ) on Thursday September 10, 2009 @11:19AM (#29379037) Journal

    As far as I know it's a common practise among police, perhaps worldwide, to try to find out who is a hothead and who isn't. When a cop is called to a dispute or fight, not always but often, s/he will ask each participant a few pointed, even brusque questions. Those who answer the questions calmly and act in a restrained manner are usually given the benefit of the doubt in terms of who started or heightened the altercation. Those who respond to a cops questions antagonistically, and/or don't calm down, are usually seen as hotheads and tend to get the shitty end of the stick. If you're stupid enough to react to a cop aggressively rather than addressing any wrongs later through the courts or a police complaints board then you're likely gonna get charges laid against you that otherwise might be let go.

    Street sense isn't just how not to get robbed and beaten in the wrong part of town, it's also how to deal with cops when things are going bad. Street sense in today's world is as necessary to basic existence as a high school diploma, although I wouldn't suggest going onto any "higher" centres of learning.

  • Re:Lie to me! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Thursday September 10, 2009 @11:19AM (#29379041)
    Pennsylvania is one of the states with such a law. However, the Pennsylvania statute explicitly excepts those locations where a person does not have an expectation of privacy, such as a restaurant. I think that there is a good chance that this case would fall under such an exception
  • Re:Lie to me! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SydShamino ( 547793 ) on Thursday September 10, 2009 @11:30AM (#29379157)

    I can magically avoid detection on an audio tape by keeping my damn mouth shut.

    I can't yet magically avoid detection on a video tape by turning invisible. And no, wearing a ski mask to avoid recognition isn't a reasonable alternative.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 10, 2009 @11:31AM (#29379181)

    Amazingly enough, that also happened in Massachusetts [].

    Funny how all the stories about [] police [] overreacting [] seem to come from Massachusetts.

  • Re:Lie to me! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Daniel_Staal ( 609844 ) <> on Thursday September 10, 2009 @11:34AM (#29379231)

    Usually such a law is supported by the argument that an undercover police officer can't record what you say without you knowing about it.

    I'm with you: I can see the ability to make such recordings being a great safety tool in some circumstances, but I can also see great potential for abuse.

  • by codegen ( 103601 ) on Thursday September 10, 2009 @11:38AM (#29379273) Journal
    Actually, the laws only apply to audio, video is just fine as long as there is no microphone.
  • by Rob the Bold ( 788862 ) on Thursday September 10, 2009 @11:54AM (#29379527)

    How does a Federal special prosecutor give immunity against State charges? I assume you are familiar with the 10th amendment and the concept of separation of powers?

    Your beef is with Wikipedia. Better go fix it.

  • Re:!wiretap (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Kenoli ( 934612 ) on Thursday September 10, 2009 @12:07PM (#29379689)

    IMHO, it doesn't make sense that it can be illegal to record a conversation that you are part of since you have been explicitly granted access to the information (the guy is F@#$ing talking to you).

    Agreed. It does seem strange to consider recording your own conversation with someone as a 'secret interception'.
    Doesn't everyone involved implicitly have a right to record (ie remember) any information discussed?

  • Re:Lie to me! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by eth1 ( 94901 ) on Thursday September 10, 2009 @12:07PM (#29379693)

    And that's the problem... It costs the state nothing to pile as many charges as they please on you, but it costs a SHITLOAD to fight them.

    Maybe it's time to make the state pay for your defense when you're aquitted? If they have one valid charge, and pile on 9 other bogus ones to see if they stick, they pay 90% of your defense bill if you're aquitted of 9/10 of them.

  • Re:!wiretap (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Theaetetus ( 590071 ) <theaetetus DOT slashdot AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday September 10, 2009 @12:20PM (#29379839) Homepage Journal

    If I inform you that I am recording your speech, and you choose to keep talking, then you have consented.

    No, you can expressly refuse consent. But it's irrelevant in this case, because your consent was never required. Merely your knowledge.

  • Re:Lie to me! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tanktalus ( 794810 ) on Thursday September 10, 2009 @12:41PM (#29380033) Journal

    I wonder how much trouble I'd get into if I put on a ski mask, in the middle of summer, and walked into my local bank, walked up to the ATM, put in my own card, took out some cash, and walked out. Would I even get back to the door, or would the police already be there to arrest me while I was trying to take out the cash?

    Maybe if I were independently wealthy and had time on my hands to take the police down a notch or two I'd try something like this. In the meantime, though, I don't think I can afford the lunacy of fighting the cops.

  • by petergriffinismyhero ( 803004 ) on Thursday September 10, 2009 @12:58PM (#29380213)
    Would it be legal to use a machine to lip-read and store said conversation from video only? The software exists today, and works quit well. No need to store the audio if you can lip-read it from the video.
  • Re:Lie to me! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Thursday September 10, 2009 @02:33PM (#29381225) Homepage Journal

    There are times when the evidence points to you when you ARE innocent. It doesn't matter whether or not you're guilty, it matters that the state can prove your guilt, whether or not you're guilty.

    In times like that I'm sure you won't hate lawyers.

  • Re:Lie to me! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Thursday September 10, 2009 @02:55PM (#29381513)
    It's been done. More than once. And the results generally were not good.
  • Re:Lie to me! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Burning1 ( 204959 ) on Thursday September 10, 2009 @04:45PM (#29382763) Homepage

    I'm a motorcyclist. I wear a helmet on my way to the bank, and for the colder half of the year, I wear a ski mask underneath that.

    Banks are pretty touchy about masks. I've never tried to wear one into the bank, but they've actually stopped me from putting on my helmet on the way out, even after they had my face on camera.

    I find that it tends to make (mall) security officers a little tense as well.

    Interestingly, people tend to be more nervous about the mask than the helmet. I installed a nose guard which effectively covers the ski mask - you can't easily tell I'm wearing one by looking through the visor. People seem a little more relaxed.

    All the banks I go to have ATMs on the outside. I never take my helmet off when I use them, and I've never had any trouble because of it.

    I strongly suspect that if you walked into a bank wearing a ski mask for no obvious reason, an officer would be called by the time you got to the teller, and you'd be arrested on your way out.

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