Self-Incrimination and Confessions – CJUS375 1

CJUS375 1 – Assignment Instructions

You are a police officer assigned to a task force that is investigating major drug trafficking operations in your jurisdiction. As part of the investigative process, a judge has issued a wiretap order for a suspect’s phone. You are assigned the responsibility of monitoring phone conversations, and you overhear the suspect as well as other individuals who may or may not be involved in the drug ring. Before obtaining enough evidence to arrest and prosecute the suspect, you hear evidence related to other types of criminal activity

Assignment Guidelines

  • What constitutional issues are involved in the scenario that dictates what you can and cannot do related to the evidence of other criminal activity outside the scope of the original wiretap order? Explain.
  • If you arrest the other individuals for the crimes not associated with the reasons for the wiretap, what happens to any future evidence that might be obtained from the wiretap? Why?
  • If you fail to arrest the other individuals, are there any potential risks involved? Explain you answer.

Self-Incrimination and Confessions

Constitutional Issues Involved in the Scenario

This paper is based on a case where an investigation officer working on a drug trafficking operations is issued with a wiretap order for a suspect’s phone as part of the evidence gathering strategy. While monitoring the suspect’s phone conversation, information on another criminal engagement, other than the one issued order for investigation is identified. The suspect was found to be organizing another criminal activity with an unidentified person other than the drug trafficking deal. This situation involves the Fourth Amendment constitution issues. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects people’s right to be secure in their effects, persons, papers, and houses, over unreasonable seizures and searches unless a warrant is issued by the court upon probable cause. The case also involves the Wiretap Act that protects individuals’ privacy during communication with other parties. The act dictates when wiretap is illegal and penalties for the violation. The warrant is supposed to offer particulars of place to search, and the things or persons to be seized (Cyber.harvard.edu, n.d.).

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In this particular case, the warrant was to wiretap a specific suspect phone over drug trafficking cases. This means, the warrant did not cover the newly identified illegal engagement, and hence its use to make arrests over the new case is primarily against the Fourth Amendment. The court permitted the collection of drug trafficking evidence through wiretapping. This means the investigation officer was restricted to collect evidence and make any arrest concerning drug trafficking case and nothing beyond there. However, in any wiretap, there are different classes of information that can be obtained. This is especially because the officer cannot exclusively scale what to listen to and what to discard without taking some time in each conversation. These classes of information include the actual information about drug trafficking, information about different crimes other than the targeted one, and social communication with family and friends (Low, 1975).

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The officer may arrest the first suspect, as the information about the other crime was obtained through a warranted wiretap, as long as the officer can manage to show that it was reasonable to do so as there was the occurrence of a crime. Although the Fourth Amendment demands a warrant, officers are also permitted to take action if there is a probable cause to believe that a crime was taking place or the crime evidence is accessible. The officer must also be able to prove that organized crime was a serious felony crime identified by the statute. Arresting without the ability to convince the court of probable cause will be termed as a violation of suspect rights based on the Fourth Amendment. Alternatively, the officer may seek an extension of the current warrant to any criminal activity or get another warrant for collecting evidence for other criminal activities as long a probable cause is convincing to the judge (Ohchr.org, n.d.).

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Impact of Any Future Evidence from Wiretap if Other Suspects not associated with Drug Trafficking are Arrested.

In this case, the wiretap is warranted for investigating drug trafficking crime. The obtained information about another criminal organization is simply out of the scope of warranted investigation. In case, the officer decides to use the information about a second crime to arrest the second party involved in the conversation, then the officer will be violating the second party’s privacy as per the Fourth Amendment. However, the Fourth Amendment leaves a chance for the officer in charge to make a reasonable judgment based on the situation. Moreover, the officer has the option of obtaining a warrant to gather information on other possible crimes organized by the targeted suspect.

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This is particularly important for wiretaps where the officer has to decide on what is a private conversation not related to the warranted cause, what is warranted, and what ought to be warranted. An officer may need to listen to what seems private before identifying the actual agenda of the call. In this case, it can be reasonable to arrest other parties involved in this conversation after ascertaining the probable cause or with a warrant. If this happens, the wiretap should be used to investigate any criminal activity conducted through the tapped phone without restriction, until all viable information is collected, within the permitted time (Low, 1975).  

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Potential Risks for not Arresting Other Individuals

In case the officer is unable to arrest the other individuals there is a risk that the crime will continue. Based on the wiretap conversation, the targeted suspect is organizing another crime with unknown individuals. This may be a serious crime that can affect the lives of innocent people. Not arresting the involved parties will mean that the parties will get an opportunity to continue with this crime which will end up harming several innocent people in the society and increase the crime rates in the area. Not arresting those individuals will also deny the officer an opportunity to investigate the case further and to obtain more information that can lead to the disclosure of other members of the gang involved in different crimes network. This can be an opportunity to resolve several unsolved criminal investigations. Making arrests may end up being a breakthrough to the investigation team in the group. Arrest will give the officer a chance to search suspects’ houses, to interrogate them and obtain more information regarding their criminal engagements. Failure to arrest and investigate further may result in the loss of a golden opportunity in fighting crimes in the area.

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