MMA testimony to Judiciary Committee supporting bill to update wiretap law

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The Honorable Eugene L. O’Flaherty, House Chair
The Honorable Katherine Clark, Senate Chair
Joint Committee on the Judiciary
State House, Boston
Dear Chairman O’Flaherty, Chairwoman Clark, and Distinguished Committee Members,
On behalf of the cities and towns of the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association appreciates the opportunity to offer testimony on Senate Bill 654 and House Bill 3261, An Act Updating the Wiretap Interception Law. The MMA supports this legislation as a common-sense measure to protect public safety in our communities and urges your Committee to issue a favorable report to S. 654 and H. 3261.
The legislation before you today updates the Commonwealth’s decades-old statute governing the wiretap interception law. Since 1968, the law has provided an important tool for law-enforcement engaged in challenging investigations in cities and towns across the state, in cases where all other investigatory methods have been exhausted. This bill updates the existing statute to ensure that advances in communication technology, such as the development and widespread use of cell phones, are eligible for inclusion in a wiretap operation under the law. Further, the measure expands the types of crimes eligible for a wiretap, removing the requirement that wiretaps only be used in cases relating to organized crime, and increases the list of eligible crimes to include the newer crimes of human trafficking, gaming and money laundering. This represents an important adjustment that will provide law enforcement with an essential tool to combat modern criminal activity across Massachusetts.
While this common-sense modernization expands the eligible communication technology and the types of crimes for which law enforcement may seek a wiretap, it in no way lowers the high burden that law enforcement must meet to obtain judicial authorization for a wiretap specific to a criminal investigation. The bill maintains the same evidentiary burden that must now be met by law enforcement seeking a wiretap, but brings the law up to date to keep pace with the changes that have occurred in technology and society over the past 45 years.
Once again, thank you for the opportunity to offer testimony on this bill and for your consideration of this important matter. If you have any questions, please feel free to have your office contact Catherine Rollins of the MMA staff at 617-426-7272 at any time.
Geoffrey C. Beckwith
Executive Director, MMA