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Motions: Violation of the Pennsylvania Wiretap Act

One of the more obscure Motions that an attorney can file in a criminal defense case is a Motion to Suppress evidence which is a violation of the Pennsylvania Wiretap Act. It can be argued that evidence which the police obtained either directly or indirectly should be suppressed (or kept out of court), if it was obtained in violation of the Pennsylvania Wiretap Act. Attorney Evan Kelly  The Pennsylvania Wiretap Act can be found in Title 18 section 5702 and 5703 and 5704. Specifically, Section 5704 of the Pennsylvania Wiretap Act states that a private citizen may not intercept a wire (phone call) or oral communication unless all parties involved in the communication (conversation) have given prior consent to the conversation being intercepted or recorded.

So how does this rule effect a criminal defendant who is charged with a crime? Well under this law, the police may not introduce evidence against an accused if it was obtained in violation of the PA wiretap act. An example of this would be if a prison call was intercepted that the defendant was allegedly involved in and the defendant did not know and was not informed that the call was going to be intercepted.

In 1991, The Pennsylvania Superior Court analyzed this issue. Specifically in the case of the Commonwealth vs Parrella, the PA Superior Court found that unless all parties to a phone conversation have given their permission to the interception or recording of their phone conversation by another person, the evidence obtained through the illegal interception or recording is inadmissible in any legal proceeding and must be suppressed or kept out of court. Rule 600 suppression  This ruling was significant because it meant that evidence could not be used in curt against a criminal defendant if it was unlawfully obtained in violation of the PA Wiretap Act.

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