Imran's personal blog

October 8, 2012

Wiretap is not a crime

Filed under: Uncategorized — ipeerbhai @ 5:18 am

I like the police — I really do. I am on the side of law and order. Back when I was growing up, I used to watch a TV cartoon called, “GhostBusters”. Not to be confused with, “The real Ghostbusters”. In one episode, the guys end up on a supernatural baseball team with good playing evil a game of baseball. No stakes, just a game, for fun.

Evil keeps cheating. The guys notice this over and over, and get angry about it. They feel like cheating, too. They complain to someone( I forget who, or why. I think they may have cheated too, in response to Evil’s cheating. ), and the response stuck with me since then. It goes something like this, “Evil can cheat — it is evil. We know that it cheats. But good, if it cheats, is no longer good.” While this is a child’s Ideal of good and Evil ( and I’ve been reading Nietzsche’s “Beyond Good and Evil”, and am thus questioning the entire idea of Good or Evil ), it is an ideal of Good.

So, when we see or hear people doing evil, especially if those people are, “The good guys”, it really offends our sensibilities. Good must not commit evil, and if it does so, is evil. This very idea is why I think we may becoming the bad guys. We keep invading other countries, ( Grenada, Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, Iraq, etc… ) even evil ones, for arguably evil reasons. Of course, this is now getting off topic. Today’s topic is about wiretap.

Recently, there have been arrests of photographers, videographers, and even ordinary people with cell phones, for the crime of wiretap. These arrests have focused on using wiretap as a pretense to destroy evidence of police misconduct. While researching another issue, I discovered that wiretap is not a crime ( at least in Washington state )! I should say, there is an exception in the Wa wiretap law that explicitly states wiretap is ok, provided the wiretap is to gain information to stop a crime. This is written in RCW 9.73.030(2).

So, if I read the law right — if you see a person, whether they are a government official or not, committing a crime, then it is always ok to record them — even in a private phone call! Of course, I am not a lawyer — and it won’t stop the police from arresting you for doing it. But it will stop the court from convicting you. If you are arrested for wiretap, do not waive your right to a speedy trial. This is common for public defenders to do. You are too likely to win, and are better off getting it over with quickly instead of languishing in jail simply waiting for a court date.

That’s another topic. I feel that the routine waiver of speedy trial, the caseloads of public defenders, combined with the strong incentives of plea bargaining, may in fact be convincing the very poor to accept punishment for crimes they have not committed. Not that I am a fan of criminals. I want tougher sentences for those convicted. But, we must make sure convictions are honest. If people are accepting convictions for economic ( as in opportunity costs/etc ) reasons, then this is also an evil. I can imagine a poor person getting pulled over for, “Driving while Black”, turning on his cell phone, recording a civil rights violation, then being arrested for Wiretap violations. With routine waiver and a public defender, a prosecutor may be tempted to “sweep it under the rug” and plea bargain the defendant to a traffic violation, thus harming the defendant and planting a seed of reasonable doubt to any future civil action.( Aka, “He wasn’t stopped because he was black! He was stopped, and pled guilty to, his tail-light being broken! It was reasonable!!!” )


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