AG pushes for law overhauls on wiretapping

In an effort to curb gang and gun violence across the Commonwealth, Mass. Attorney General Martha Coakley and a group of legislators, members of law enforcement and mayors announced Monday that legislation has been filed to update the Commonwealth’s wiretapping laws.

The bill, “An Act Updating the Wire Interception Law,” was filed Jan. 18 and has been endorsed by Mass. Sen. Katherine Clark, state Rep. Eugene O’Flaherty and state Rep. John Keenan.

Coakley spoke at a press conference Monday about the importance of the wiretap update for fighting crime.

“This is a common-sense step forward to keeping our communities safe from those who illegally sell and use guns and foster an atmosphere of violence,” she said. “If we want to truly be able to investigate and prosecute some of our most dangerous criminals and take them off the streets, we need to update this law.”

The update would permit wiretapping to be used in cases of human trafficking, gaming, child pornography, money laundering and enterprise crime, according to a press release Monday from Coakley’s office. The bill would also extend the possible length of the wiretap from 15 days to 30 days, which is the federal maximum.

The push for the update represents the effort by law enforcement officials to better utilize modern technology to convict suspects. According to the Attorney General, the law has not been updated since 1968.

“It’s like asking our police to continue on horse and buggies after criminals began driving around in cars,” Coakley said.

Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley said at the press conference this update is necessary to keep up with criminals.

“The state’s wiretap laws are stuck in the days of La Cosa Nostra when today’s violent offenders are using 21st century technology,” he said. “Updating them would allow us to convict defendants with their own voices and reduce the burden on civilian witnesses.”

Middlesex District Attorney Gerard Leone Jr. said an update would increase community safety.

“This bill is an important step to give law enforcement the tools we need to keep our communities safe from gun and street violence, to combat human trafficking and to investigate terrorist threats,” he said.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said this update would go a long way toward combating violent crime.

“Our officers should be able to utilize these surveillance tools to investigate violent crimes,” he said in a statement. “An update to the wiretap law is long overdue and these changes will go a long way in getting illegal guns, drugs and harmful individuals off our streets and out of our neighborhoods.”

Norwood Police Chief William Brooks showed strong support for the Attorney General’s proposition.

“It is in the interest of public safety that this statute be modernized to keep pace with developments in technology and crime,” he said in a statement.

Voting for the proposed legislation will take place later in 2013.

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