U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

E-Mail and the Wiretap Laws: Why Congress Should Add Electronic Communication to Title III's Statutory Exclusionary Rule and Expressly Reject a "Good Faith" Exception

NCJ Number
Harvard Journal on Legislation Volume: 34 Issue: 2 Dated: special issue (Summer 1997) Pages: 395-438
M S Leib
Date Published
46 pages
In 1986, Congress passed the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, thereby revamping Title III wiretap laws to bring new technologies that send and receive electronic communications, such as electronic mail, into the statutory framework of laws governing wiretaps.
However, Congress gave electronic communications less protection from government interception than it affords wire and oral communications. In particular, Congress did not include a statutory suppression remedy for electronic communications seized in violation of Title III's provisions. The author argues such discrimination threatens the growth of emerging electronic technologies, creates formal distinctions in the law, and discourages law enforcement from vigilantly applying Title III provisions. Further, the author believes Congress has included confusing language in Title III revisions that cloud the status of the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule for Title III violations involving wire and oral communications. He concludes Congress should revisit Title III, especially with regard to the exclusionary rule, to provide a suppression remedy for illegal interception of electronic communications and to explicitly reject any good faith exception for both constitutional and statutory violations of Title III. 253 footnotes