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Bugged Outside: A Case on Federal Eavesdropping

If true, some accusations coming out of California are quite startling. According to recent motions filed in federal court, some private citizens are accusing federal government agents of bugging areas around the outside of a federal courthouse and using the conversations in criminal cases.

The federal agents in question got permission from the Department of Justice and FBI, but not from any court, to put listening devices in several locations around a courthouse. Allegedly they planted bugs in a planter, a sprinkler box, and vehicles near the courthouse. This recently-revealed practice has lawyers and clients throughout the country wondering what else is being bugged around courthouses.

The problems with doing something like this should be apparent to anyone familiar with legal proceedings. Everyday, lawyers take their clients aside and engage in what they consider to be private conversations about their upcoming cases. Those conversations range from strategy to liability and everything in between. And the question arises that if the feds can do this, can private parties do the same to the feds and their lawyers? Just record them anywhere and anytime in a public space?

Motion and Arguments

A criminal defendant and his legal team are asking the federal court in question to declare that these recordings are against the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The 4th Amendment protects U.S. citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government, and they argue that recording these types of conversations outside a courthouse are unreasonable.

The issue is a novel one and has not really been heard before, and perhaps it will help the court decide that such unprecedented action is not reasonable. If the court decides that this type of clandestine recording is against the 4th Amendment, then the likely result will be that the sound recordings are suppressed and will not be able to be used at trial.

Florida Eavesdropping Laws

Florida has laws that deal with this type of activity. Unless otherwise authorized by law or dual consent of the people involved, it is illegal to record and reveal recorded conversations in Florida. That means that you have to have permission to record what are thought to be private conversations. Not only could you not use such conversations in court, you could face criminal penalties for doing it.

At The Pittman Firm we deal with all types of laws. Knowing about these and other laws that have a potential for impacting a case is what being an experienced and qualified lawyer is all about. While our primary area of practice is personal injury, we know that at any given point in any given case, a number of laws from a number of legal areas could come into play. As a result, you can take comfort in the knowledge that we work tirelessly to study every important area of the law to ensure that your case gets the attention it deserves. If you have been injured in an accident in the Panama City area, contact us. We look forward to giving you a free case evaluation.

See related blog posts: Florida Supreme Court Wrestles With Contempt Issue; Maryland Police Department Takes New Approach to Texting and Driving.


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