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Allegedly illegal wiretaps may jeopardize drug cases

Individuals in Tennessee may be interested to learn about a case involving illegal wiretapping. The wiretaps were approved in Riverside County, California, but as a result, people were taken into custody throughout the United States. According to reports, more than 700 wiretaps may have been illegal.

Top prosecutors are required to approve wiretaps, but in Riverside County, lower-level lawyers approved the wiretaps. As a result, prosecutors may be unable to use the wiretapping evidence in court. Many conversations may have been recorded illegally, and one attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union has said that even people who were not taken into custody should be notified of the violation. Reports are that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration may have also been involved.

The restriction on who could approve wiretaps has been in place since the 1960s, and the U.S. Supreme Court threw out wiretap evidence in a drug case in 1974 because it had not been properly approved. In San Bernardino County in 2013, an appeals court ruled that having a deputy district attorney rather than the district attorney sign off on a wiretap was insufficient, and this resulted in the evidence obtained in this way being thrown out. The Riverside County wiretaps resulted in people being taken into custody in Kentucky and Virginia among other places.

It has not yet been reported whether any of the wiretaps were related to investigations or people being detained in Tennessee, but this case is a good example of the types of procedural irregularities that may be used by an individual's defense to get evidence or charges dismissed. Investigators must follow rules for search and seizure as well as for detaining individuals, and if an individual's rights are violated, a case might be dropped altogether. Violations may also occur during questioning or at other points in an investigation.

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