BOSTON (WWLP) – State leaders are pushing to update Massachusetts’ wiretap law, saying it could help police better investigate the state’s most challenging crimes.
The state’s current wiretap law was written 50 years ago, restricting police use of electronic surveillance for “organized crime” only. Attorney General Maura Healey said, “In 1968, we didn’t have cellphones. We didn’t have text messages. We didn’t have instant messaging.”
Governor Charlie Baker filed a bill on Tuesday to update the state’s wiretap law to include modern technology like cellphones and computers. He said, “Modernizing this statute will give law enforcement the tools and flexibility that they need to solve crimes and threats in the 21st Century”
The bill would also expand the law to include serious crimes, such as murder, rape and human trafficking. In the past, police had difficulties getting clearance for wiretaps for these crimes.
“You know a conversation’s going to take place over the wire about how they murdered somebody, but you’re not going to be able to tape it,” Secretary of Public Safety Daniel Bennett explained, “even though that’s the only alternative you have to prove that that murder took place. That’s a significant impediment.”
Critics are concerned the bill could violate people’s right to privacy, but state officials say that police will still need warrants to obtain evidence. Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe said, “It must be shown that normal investigative techniques have been tried and failed to solve the crime.”
The bill is expected to be reviewed later this session.