Criminal justice reform has been on everyone’s minds in Massachusetts, including Governor Charlie Baker. Earlier this month, Gov. Baker and Attorney General Maura Healey presented a new Massachusetts wiretapping bill for consideration at a State House news conference that would modernize the 1968 wiretapping statute currently on the books. Here’s what those updates could look like.
What Would the New Bill Do?
The goals of the new bill are to accurately define which criminal activities can be wiretapped and give law enforcement officials more tools to apprehend criminals. Under the current law, wiretapping is only permitted in relation to organized crime cases. The new bill would redefine organized crime to include more offenses, including “illegal trafficking of firearms, money laundering and creation or dissemination of child pornography.” The bill would also allow electronic surveillance in cases of heinous crimes, such as gang-related murder, rape, possession or use of explosives, egregious civil rights violations, and human trafficking.
Supporters vs. Critics
Though the new bill has the bipartisan backing of the governor, AG, district attorneys, and other law enforcement officers, there are, naturally, plenty of critics as well. Opponents worry that the definition of electronic surveillance will expand too far and give law enforcement license to monitor private activity indiscriminately. Many defense attorneys have expressed apprehension that expanding this statute’s reach will result in innocent people being surveilled for any number of reasons.
Gov. Baker released a statement in which he said, “As several state judges have noted, overhauling this law to address 21st-century technology will help law enforcement better protect the people of Massachusetts.”