New Jersey Supreme Court To Consider The Legality Of The New Jersey Wiretapping And Electronic Surveillance Control Act
By: Christopher A. Iacono
The New Jersey Supreme Court has agreed to hear a constitutional challenge of the New Jersey Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Control Act (the “New Jersey Act”), which allows law enforcement to intercept out-of-state telephone calls. The challenge to the New Jersey Act is being presented by Edward Ronald Ates, who was convicted of murdering his former son-in-law and received a life sentence.
In his appeal to the New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division, Ates urged the Court to overturn his conviction on the basis that law enforcement’s wiretaps of phone calls that he made from Florida to his mother and sister, who were in Louisiana, violated his right to privacy. Specifically, Ates argued that the New Jersey Act is unconstitutional because it allows New Jersey state law enforcement to intercept phone calls between individuals who are not in New Jersey when the calls occurred.
The Appellate Division held that the intercepted calls were lawfully obtained, because the law enforcement officials who retrieved the calls were physically in New Jersey during the interceptions, and, therefore, complied with the state and federal wiretapping law. The Court stated that the New Jersey Act provides that Orders authorizing wiretaps are lawful as long as the Orders were issued in the same state where the interceptions are scheduled to occur. Accordingly, the Court in State v. Ates, 46 A.3d 550 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2012) found the Orders authorizing the wiretaps lawful because the Order to intercept the phone calls was issued in New Jersey, which was the same place where the calls were ultimately intercepted.
“The Appellate Division held that the intercepted calls were lawfully obtained, because the law enforcement officials who retrieved the calls were physically in New Jersey during the interceptions, and, therefore, complied with the state and federal wiretapping law.”
The New Jersey Supreme Court has granted certification of the case and will consider whether the provision in the New Jersey Act that allowed authorities to intercept Ates’ phone calls renders the law unconstitutional. No date for oral argument has been set.