Not A Clown Car Law: Comparing Massachusetts’ Electronic Wiretapping Laws to Connecticut’s

The way you hear Martha Coakley tell it, Massachusetts’ laws relating to when you can and cannot issue an electronic wiretapping warrant are about as effective as using a clown car to fly folks to the moon. They were passed in the 1960s, man! Don’t you know you can’t trust any law over 30?

Of course, the Bill of Rights is nearly 220 years old, and many people seem somehow to find it important despite being oldy oldy old old. So we figured, why don’t we take a look at what other comparable states do, and see if Massachusetts’ laws look comically outdated compared to them?

Let’s try our friends over in dull-but-wealthy Connecticut! What does Nutmeg State law enforcement have to do to get their donut-frosting-smeared mitts on one of those sweet, sweet electronic wiretapping warrants?

Well, it turns out that unlike with Martha Coakley’s new proposal, it seems that our neighbors somehow get along perfectly well without allowing electronic wiretapping on people who make annoying telephone calls, smoke a joint on their day off, own a heritage firearm, or wish to peacefully petition for a redress of grievances. Electronic interceptions down the road in CT have to relate to serious, mostly gang-related felonies, or involve “the unlawful use or threatened use of physical force or violence committed with the intent to intimidate or coerce the civilian population or a unit of government”. With this hippy let-it-all-hang-out attitude to law enforcement, crime in Connecticut must be going through the roof. Life must be barely tolerable in Darien (pronounced “Dairy Ann”), just one of the post-apocalyptic crime-ridden hellholes our neighbors to the south have to offer the discerning visitor.

Desperate Darien residents have taken to building fortresses with moats to repel invaders.

Desperate Darien residents have taken to building fortresses with moats to repel invaders.

As it turns out, crime in Connecticut is pretty much like it is in Massachusetts: Down. Way down. Historic lows down. From a peak of 5.4 crimes per 1,000 people in 1990, the last reported figures (for 2010) show a much-reduced 2.4 crimes per 1,000. Massachusetts is at 2.8 crimes per 1,000 people (the figures are from the federal Uniform Crimes Reports).

It’s almost as if having broader laws permitting electronic wiretapping had nothing at all with reducing crime, but everything to do with giving the freest hand possible to law enforcement to mess with your life.

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