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Wiretapping Charges Dropped 333

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the express-written-consent dept.
Ada_Rules writes "I realize that the end of a story is not nearly as sexy as the beginning, but police in Nashua have dropped the wiretapping charges against a man that had recorded both video and audio from on his home security system. The man had brought a videotape to the police station to back up a claim that a detective was rude to him while on his property as part of an investigation. In addition, the police have determined that the man's complaint about the detective was justified."
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Wiretapping Charges Dropped

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  • by OO7david (159677) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @12:12PM (#15852626) Homepage Journal
    While police believe Gannon had violated state wiretap laws, Hefferan wrote in a statement announcing his decision, police and prosecutors concluded the case wasnt strong enough to bother prosecuting.

    It seems that it is less that the little guy here won, so much as the DA simply thought he wouldn't win. The decision is less based on the merit of the claim so it doesn't seem like anything is really gained by this happening.

    • by Vellmont (569020) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @12:43PM (#15852733) Homepage

      It seems that it is less that the little guy here won, so much as the DA simply thought he wouldn't win.

      Well, you're correct, but with a qualification. In this case it's not lack of evidence that made the DA think he couldn't win. Obviously there's a frickin video tape that's undeniable evidence of what went on. The reason the DA didn't think he could win is that any jury would be hard pressed to believe that this guy has done anything wrong. If you ask me, that's a big win against this law in cases like this.
      • by Lumpy (12016) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @03:00PM (#15853173) Homepage
        There are other factors.

        First there is a huge amount of press about this giving the Police and DA a huge black eye. They are pushing the border of making every citizen hate them with this issue.

        Second even though the police and DA there are corrupt enough to believe that they can control the public in their own homes pushing this will make ALL security cameras illegal. Making life difficult for every store, station, cop that is trying to record what is going on.

        Personally I feel that the man targetted by the police in this harassment should have went whole hog releasing the tape to all media outlets and finding the right reporters to damage the police and the DA as much as they can. Remember cops tried to pull the same crap during the Rodney King beating, they tried to arrest the people that taped the cops kicking the crap out of him. In fact cops always try to arrest anyone capturing their misdeeds on video tape... we cant have evidence that cops are corrupt and out of control out in the public!

        It's a standard operation proceedure, your only recourse to save yourself is to make it very public and loud.
        • releasing the tape to all media outlets and finding the right reporters to damage the police and the DA as much as they can

          The ability to reporter-shop for a filter and aggregator who biases the truth in any particular direction for public consumption is much more dangerous than a small number of corrupt officers.
        • by Marcos Eliziario (969923) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @04:05PM (#15853347) Homepage Journal
          In Soviet Russia (Or, sadly, here in Brasil) they would actually kill anyone who videotaped their misdeeds and would put some drugs in your car and a gun in your hand to justify it. And no, this not meant to be funny.
        • by Rich Klein (699591) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @06:00PM (#15853632) Homepage Journal
          I don't think he could have released the video. As I understand it, the police seized the tape when he brought it to them (he should've copied it first), then came to his house and ripped the cameras off the walls.

          They still haven't returned the cameras (or the tape, I think) and they still maintain that he broke the law (maybe they're right, but if so, that law is despicable and just wrong).

          They say he was disrespectful to them. That may be, but they still owe him a public apology for what they did.
          • If they destroy the tape - it would create a criminal offense on the part of the police. They will return the tape, and they will suffer a proper litigation for overreaching, and then compounding the overreaching with seizing the petition for redress, and in so many ways violating the individuals civil rights. If a minority is involved here - it could be elevated to a hate crime. Hopefully the police will be duly chastened, and the voters will respond to the million dollar cost by voting out the police chie
      • by LWATCDR (28044) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @05:51PM (#15853611) Homepage Journal
        Actually I think it has more to do with the sticker on the side of the house.
        The law says it is illegal if it is covert. He did have signs on his home but the police claim that they where not large enough.

        This comes down to one question. Should the police have any right to privacy while acting in the line of duty?
        Should any public official have a right to privacy when acting in the line of duty?
        I honestly would have to say that I don't think so.
        If an employer has the right to monitor employees performance than the public has the right to monitor public officials performance.
        • I'd go a step further. I think that every officer should be recorded as long as he or she is on-duty. The tapes should remain on file for at least a year; at most, till any case involving the officer is settled. The tapes should be made by a third party and paid for out of the police budget. If a tape is "lost" or "damaged", then it should be assumed that the officer was in the wrong.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 05, 2006 @01:08PM (#15852812)
      The thing the "government" did not want to have happen is the judicial exception to their law (the New Hampshire law is ridiculous in that it only allows the government to use audio/video recording to capture criminals but does not allow regular people to do the same -- read it and see). By dropping the case, now there can be no judgment that regular people are indeed allowed to record wrongdoing by their government officials.

      This means the police in the state of N.H. can go on arresting people whenever they want for recording their wrongdoing. There is no liability to an officer (or the local government) for an arrest unless you can convince some judges the arrest "shocks the conscious" (good luck) or show that there is legal precedent that the arrest is false (exactly what the dropping of the charges accomplishes removing from play).

      This, btw, is the typical maneuver used when the government knows they have fucked up in a way that might create precedent adverse to their interest. And, they can always reinstate the charge later. So, don't try and get a judicial declaration that what they did was wrong -- those charges being reinstated hang over your head, now with added gravity.
      • by Quadraginta (902985) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @01:23PM (#15852865)
        I think you have made a very important point, although it is not the jury of which the police are afraid but the judge.

        If a jury refuses to convict, all they are saying, technically, is that they are not convinced the prosecutor has proved the facts of the case. It says nothing about the law. Indeed, juries have no power to alter or comment on the law.

        But what if the judge makes some rulings about the law? He can do anything from flatly declaring the law unconstitutional to putting a particular interpretation on its language. For example, the chief of police admits recording devices are legal if you post "notices" that warn people about it, and then says that the "notice" the guy had posted was insufficient -- not really a "notice" at all. Oh yeah? Sez who? What if a judge were to make a ruling about what size "notice" is really a notice? It could happen. Almost certainly would happen if this were an important element of the trial. Then the police are stuck with that ruling. They can never make the argument later that a certain notice wasn't really a notice because it wasn't floodlit, was printed in soft purple instead of bold red, et cetera. Whatever the previous judge said constituted a notice is it.

        Any rulings a judge makes become precedential, or at least citeable, in other court actions. As you say, this could easily constrain the powers of the government in similar cases later. Better by far to drop the case and avoid the danger.

        The bullshit about "not being able to convince a jury" is just a way to save face, of course.
        • by voice_of_all_reason (926702) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @01:48PM (#15852957)
          Indeed, juries have no power to alter or comment on the law.

          No given powers, but they have a de facto one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jury_nullification [wikipedia.org]. Learn it, love it.
          • But, as the GP said, nullification doth not a precedent make.
            • When a jury judges the law as unjust or unconstitutional, there can be no violation of the law. What "precedent" could be any more clear than a jury saying effectively "this law sucks ass and therefore we are striking it from the books. Have a nice day." When the law is removed, any DA would have a hard time proving guilt of breaking any such law.
              • by Quadraginta (902985) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @02:49PM (#15853157)
                Doesn't work that way. The jury is only the "trier of fact." Their job is only to decide the facts of the case, e.g. "did so-and-so do the following things as the prosecution alleges." It's then up to the judge to decide what the law says should happen if those facts are true.

                It's true the jury can refuse to convict if they don't like the law, or for any other random reason. But since the legal system can't ever inquire why a jury didn't convict, it always regards a jury acquittal as implying nothing more than that the facts the prosecution alleged were not proven.

                If citizens want a law off the books, their only real recourse is to the legislature. It can't really be done by sitting on juries unless you can get everyone who ever sits on a jury to agree not to convict. Difficult.
                • Doesn't work that way. The jury is only the "trier of fact." Their job is only to decide the facts of the case, e.g. "did so-and-so do the following things as the prosecution alleges." It's then up to the judge to decide what the law says should happen if those facts are true.

                  I refer you to the decision in U.S. vs Moylan, 417 F 2d 1002, 1006 (1969):

                  "We recognize, as appellants urge, the undisputed power of the jury to acquit, even if its verdict is contrary to the law as given by the judge, and contrary

              • by falsified (638041) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @04:08PM (#15853359)
                It's not a precedent that's useful (or harmful) to anyone.

                Juries don't have the legal knowledge of everyone else in the courtroom and therefore can't act with respect to legal precedent unless instructed to do so by the judge. However, the judge can't instruct the jury to act in accordance with the previous jury's actions, because juries don't write rulings or legal opinions, so nobody else involved can proveably discern what a jury used in its decision.

                A jury certainly can nullify, and the end result is the same, but only for that particular case. (And, as an aside, that's why precedent is tricky - no two cases are exactly alike, and opposing sides have different interpretations of precedent. That's why we have judges, not databases of rulings.) There's nothing stopping a prosecutor from filing a very similar case in another jurisdiction, nor should there be until a judge is more assertive and strikes the law down as unconsitutional - thank God for pre-trial motions. Judges nullify laws. Juries nullify charges.

              • When a jury judges the law as unjust or unconstitutional, there can be no violation of the law.

                In New Hampshire, the jury is the judge of the facts, not of the law. So the jury isn't authorized to decide whether a law is unjust or not, it is told to apply the law as instructed by the presiding judge. And even if a jury out of conscience refused to apply a law in a particular case ("nullification"), it wouldn't set a precedent, i.e. it wouldn't be binding in future cases.

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @01:14PM (#15852831)
      Seriously, the correct answer here, if citizens are really outraged, it to push through a ballot measure to change to be a 1-party state. That solves future problems like this.

      Remember: This isn't a US thing, this is state by state. Some states, like New Hampshire are rea 2-party, and bitchy at that. All parties involved in being recorded have to consent beforehand. Of course, police get an exemption from this for their cameras in the cars.

      Well that's not how it has to be. Other states are 1-party states, meaning only 1-party has to be informaed of the recording. So you can't go and tap your neighbours phone, but you can tap your own and not tell anyone. So long as one person knows, it's fine. Further some places, like Arizona, have a law such that if you own something, you are implicitly a party present or not. So you can record your own property, phoneline, whatever, and even if others are conversing without your presence you are still a party because it's your stuff.

      So that's what it comes down to here. The NH voters just need to get this on the next ballot and change it. Now I'm guessing, for all the outrage, they are just going to let it drop and forget about it. Kinda sad, but really nothing you can do.
      • by Quadraginta (902985) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @01:38PM (#15852932)
        New Hampshire is traditionally a state where citizens love their privacy. The idea of being a two-party state is to make it damn hard for citizen A to record what citizen B has to say. I don't think that's a bad idea. But I doubt people thought much about the issue of citizens recording the police, probably because they didn't realize -- pre Rodney King -- that this would generate any information useful to the preservation of public order.

        Now we know better. Turns out to be very useful to watch the police, as useful as it is to keep an eye on any public servant entrusted with the peoples' power. So I'd say the right thing to do is classify the police -- or any government agent -- in the same way as we classify public personages, like candidates or actors in public. These people by their choice of profession and action implicitly give consent to be recorded. It's not a felony to record John Kerry making a public speech (should you have sufficient stamina or caffeine), or film Mel Gibson getting arrested on Highway 1, even if neither gives his prior consent. These people have chosen to be "public personages" and are in public, and that means they no longer have the same rights to privacy as Joe Citizen.

        If the police are out in uniform doing the public's work, it seems to me there should be a clear presumption that they're just as much public personages as a candidate for the state legislature giving public speeches, and that they have implicitly given permission to anyone to film or record them. (An obvious and sensible exception would be when they're undercover, not in uniform.)
        • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @02:59PM (#15853171)
          The thing is, I shuold be able to record my phone conversations. Why not? You cannot safely assume that what you say to me on the phone is lost forever. I could be writing it down, or maybe just remembering it (I know people who are exceptional at that). Either way when you talk to me you've got to assume that I could be recording, in one fasion or another, what you say. If you trust me to keep that confidence is up to you.

          I see the privacy arguments of a 2-party system, I just think they are invalid. It is basically saying "I should have privacy, even when I do things that break privacy." As the saying goes, if two people know it, it's not a secret. So if you tell me, you should assume I can tell others, if I wish, regardless of if it's jsut me telling them from memory, or having a recording of it.

          To me it's similar to photography laws (which are fairly uniform). You can photograph my house from public property, there's nothing I can do to stop you. You can't come on my property, of course, or circumvent barriers I have, but you can stand on the street and take pictures (or video) to your hearts content. Thus, if I want to have privacy, I need to keep my blinds closed. If I am standing on my porch naked, I can't get pissed that you took a picture of me. I have no expectation of privacy, because I'm publicly visible, even if I'm on my property.
          • by Quadraginta (902985) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @06:20PM (#15853687)
            Well, I think we need to delve into the roots of why we want our privacy at all. If we're not doing anything wrong, why do we care whether others might find out about it? Why do I care whether someone aims a telephoto lens into my kitchen window and photographs me making dinner, unless I'm cooking up some crack or my freshly-butchered neighbor or I'm in the buff with a boner...?

            I suggest the main reason we care about our privacy in conversation is that we know we are intrinsically much more guarded in what we say when we know every last detail of what we say will be recorded and can be quoted, often out of context, later, to anyone at all. And that means we're a lot less likely to be as honest and forthright in any conversation that's being recorded, or which we suspect might be recorded. That hurts everyone.

            Let me put it this way. Say you own a small business, and an irate customer calls because one of your salesmen did something bogus -- sold him a widget without mentioning a peculiarity that made him drop it and hurt his toe. Now, if you and he are talking privately -- no recording, no one listening in -- then the conversation will be pretty informal. It might get heated, but it will probably be as honest as it can be. You might be willing to agree your salesmen fscked up, apologize, and offer to make some minor restitution. The guy might be mollified, agree he's a little at fault too, and accept. Problem solved.

            But suppose you know the conversation is being recorded, and a jury might hear it later and nail you for $10,000 of damages plus costs? Or it might be played on YouTube and cause you endless PR problems? You're going to be a lot cagier, you're going to admit nothing, argue aggressively that caveat emptor and it's not your salesman's fault, et cetera. And the guy at the other end, he's not going to be willing to admit he might have been a little inattentive, a little at fault, too. So the conversation is less likely to come to a mutually-acceptable end, and much more likely to be a stiff, pointless exchange of talking points. That's not good. Means what could have been a small conflict can become a much bigger and harder to solve conflict.

            Basically having a two-party law says conversations are generally "off the record" unless everyone agrees otherwise, and I suggest a big purpose of this is to encourage the greater honesty in conversation that happens when things are off the record.

            Sure, it's true people can take notes of a conversation, or memorize parts of it. But these are both very limited ways of recording the conversation, and are bound to generally capture only the high points. It's much harder to take some little tidbit out of context and use it to damn you. Furthermore, you have a plausible defense in that you can argue the fallibility of memory, or the illegibility of the notes, whatever. So it's definitely harder to use the conversation to attack you than if it were recorded in perfect fidelity.

            I'm not saying this argument need be convincing. Your argument is sound. It's a tough call which argument should prevail, and probably people feel one way and then the other, depending on what's happened to them lately. Sure, sometimes I wish I could've recorded things the ex-wife said to me over the phone. But then again, there are times I'm right glad she couldn't record what I said. It cuts both ways for most people, sooner or later. That's probably why there's no national consensus on this issue, and different states have substantially different laws.
            • by Elemenope (905108) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @08:49PM (#15853998)
              I think it might be better to just write in a public official exception to the 2-party rule; a public official, while carrying out his/her duties, is automatically assumed to have granted (by virtue of executing the public business) permission to be recorded. This would preserve your extremely insightful point about private sincerity, but still sticks it to the Man when the Man overreaches.
    • It seems that it is less that the little guy here won, so much as the DA simply thought he wouldn't win.

      Guerillas — we are told daily — win by not losing...

    • Gannon had to post $10,000 bail to get out of jail. So either he had $10,000 lying around, or he (his wife) paid a bail bondsman $1,000 to put up the $10,000.

      OK, for $1,000, he gets to show up at work the next day (instead of remaining behind bars, and risk getting fired for failure to show up to work) (Or if he owns his own business, leaving the doors closed, or paying someone else to fill his position).

      He's still out the $1,000 to the bail bondsman.

  • by TheNoxx (412624) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @12:13PM (#15852629) Homepage Journal
    Cops bring up surreptitious charges and laws fairly often, or will try to convince you in a similar manner that you don't have any rights. I have friends that are cops, good cops, that have told me this.

    Also, as I have many, many friends that are amateur and professional photographers, they were stunned when they heard this; some have been in similar situations with police and/or security. Luckily, there's this nifty little document [krages.com] I found from an attorney explaining the rights of photographers.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      This is very true. Over a year ago I was ran off the road by another car, causing me to lose control and hit the wall. The guy that ran me off the road naturally kept driving. When the police arrived, the first thing out of the officers mouth was something about how he knew I was racing, and could tell I hit the wall at 160mph (I was driving a dodge viper). In anycase, I really hit the wall doing 50-60, no way would I have been able to walk away from an accident at 160mph. I told the officer this and he sai
    • You mean "specious". "Surreptitious" means "secretive, sneaky".
    • "Cops bring up surreptitious charges and laws fairly often" I'm not sure "surreptitious" is the correct word here. Spurious might be a better one. Surreptitious implies something is hidden. Laws are defined and publicly available. It is a citizens duty to know the laws and obey them. When in doubt, check it out. I always carry a pocket knife. It is a tool that comes in handy often. I know the concealed weapons laws of my state to ensure that I don't carry a knife that violates the law. There are c
      • by patrixmyth (167599) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @01:37PM (#15852925)
        I believe the technical term would be "bullshit" charges, as in "Cops bring up bullshit charges and laws fairly often." I don't think any other word comes close to expressing the concept nearly as well.
      • by TheNoxx (412624)
        I chose the word to illustrate the secretive techniques often developed by bad cops to keep a suspect in the dark about his or her rights in any given situation. As another poster replied above, some cops will dream up the most elaborate schemes to get someone to agree to trumped-up or completely false charges; the previous poster was lucky that the cop wasn't as corrupt as he could have been, as I've known of similar situations where the officer said he would charge a friend of mine with resisting arrest o
      • by hazem (472289) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @03:04PM (#15853185) Journal
        I have a friend who is nearly a lawyer and she has been involved in lots of protests in her life.

        *** _I_ am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. Always get your legal advice from a lawyer. ***

        When approached by a cop, you only have to identify yourself. You really don't have to answer any other questions.

        Anything you say before you are arrested can be used against you. Don't admit to anything. If he asks "have you been drinking/fucking/...", she recommends answering with something like "isn't it a nice day, officer", or "can I help you with anything, officer".

        If they ask you if they can search your purse, car, pants, etc. You should always answer, "I'm sorry officer, I do not consent to this search." They will probably do the search - illegally probabably. But if you have not given consent, any evidence most likely cannot be used against you. The trick is that they want to find something and get you to talk. They might not be able to use the evidence they found, but if you then confess about that evidence, you're fucked.

        But more importantly, say very early in the dialogue:

        "Am I under arrest?" This forces the cop's hand... at this point he either has to arrest you or not. Once you are arrested, he is required to read you your miranda rights.

        This should be followed by (if you're not under arrest):

        "Am I free to go."

        If you ARE under arrest, the next thing you need to say is:
        "I want my lawyer NOW".

        It's very important to state it in no uncertain terms. Saying things like "I think I should have a lawyer", or "maybe I should have a lawyer", or "can I have a lawyer" are not good enough and don't invoke your protections.

        After this, SHUT YOUR TRAP!

        REMEMBER... THE COPS ARE ***NOT*** ON YOUR SIDE. THEY ARE ***NOT*** YOUR FRIEND. They will LIE, CHEAT, and do anything they can to get you to give yourself up. Don't fall for it. They do this all day, every-day. You probably never have. Would you play one-on-one with a pro ball player in a wager for your life? It's the same thing here... the cops and DAs are well practiced pro-level players. They will grind you up and dispose of you before you know what hit you.

        And the best way to keep from being rail-roaded by the "justice" system is to avoid getting into it in the first place. Know your rights and exercise them.

        So remember:
        I do not consent to this search.
        Am I under arrest?
        Am I free to go?
        I want my lawyer NOW.
        then SHUT UP!
        • Actually, the cop NEVER has to read you your Miranda rights - even when you are under arrest. They ONLY have to read you your Miranda warnings IF they want to use your statements against you.

          I know here in Queens County, I asked the DA about this (I was on Grand Jury) - he said that they often don't bother - bring the guy in, offer the one call, and a lawyer, and never bother with the "statements can and will" - because they have so much evidence, that the persons statements make NO difference in the case.
    • ... or will try to convince you in a similar manner that you don't have any rights.

      No kidding. I was arrested once many years ago and when I told the copper at the station (in a joking, not pissing manner), "Hey, you didn't read us our rights!" He said, "Shit, that's only in the movies."

      Whether that had anything to do with the fact that I was charged with disorderly conduct instead of whatever it was that they had arrested me for in the first place, I can't say.

  • Thanks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by XanC (644172) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @12:13PM (#15852630)
    A lot of the time, at pretty much every news outlet, we hear the inflammatory first part of the story, and then when never find out what really happened, what the other side of the story was, or how it turned out. Thanks for following up!
    • me too, i wish all news outlets followed up there front page stories with other front page stories. Just because it isn't inflamatory.....which seems to be the only criteria for too many news outlets these days.
    • Re:Thanks (Score:3, Funny)

      by Lord Omlette (124579)
      Once upon a time, Slashdot had a very useful feature called "slashback", where every so often, they would follow up on a few of the front page articles from the last week or so...
  • Yeah, But... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @12:14PM (#15852633)
    Yeah, they may have dropped it, but only after hassling and stressing this guy out over the possible consequences for days.

    In a fair society:

    1: He is entitled to compensation, say $1000 per hour for every hour between the time he was charged and the time he knew for sure that the charges were dropped.

    2: The police involved should be sent back for a minimum of 40 hours of updated training in the laws they are supposed to be enforcing.

    3: The city attorney, who didn't immediately drop these bogus charges (he, at least, has no excuse at all for not knowing the law) should be immediately fired, suspended, or recalled as appropriate.

    4: If there were any judges involved who didn't immediately drop the case, they should be impeached.

    Then there'd have been some true justice here.

    • Re:Yeah, But... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Tack (4642) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @12:31PM (#15852690) Homepage

      As I understand it, in my jurisidiction (Canada), the typical payout is around $1000 for every day you are unjustly incarcerated. People who are winning Miscarriage of Justice suits are in some cases getting millions. I personally think that's a bit on the low side, but at least it's some acknowledgement that they fucked up.

      For clearly bullshit arrests, especially ones that are so public, I think you should be eligible for similar damages, but I do think $1000/hour is quite excessive. I believe the guy is entitled to some restitution, but let's also remember that we (fellow taxpayers) are the ones paying for it. It's in everyone's interests to come up with a reasonable figure.

      • In your example (Miscarriage of Justice suits), the bad cops are an even bigger problem. Not only for the wrongful arrests and such, but also because their actions cost the taxpayers even more money.

        So, instead, why not just garnish the cop's wages to pay any fines?

        Why should the taxpayers have to foot the bill for a bad cop's stupidity?
      • in my jurisidiction (Canada), the typical payout is around $1000 for every day you are unjustly incarcerated

        So in the US, we should get $666?

        BBH
    • I tend to agree that there should be some kind of action brought against the police department. This is just simply police harassment and intimidation of someone who's done nothing wrong. The police are trying to Cover Their Ass by claiming they dropped the charges because they couldn't convince a jury that it was illegal. Strange that they have a mountain of evidence (an actual tape of what went on), but yet they didn't think they'd get a conviction. An obvious admission that this is an unjust law.

      We d
    • RTFA (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mangu (126918) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @12:43PM (#15852732)
      He is entitled to compensation, say $1000 per hour for every hour between the time he was charged and the time he knew for sure that the charges were dropped.


      To be fair, let's not forget the police officers' side. They were after the homeowner's son, in an investigation connected with a mugging. They found in that house a stolen handgun. They found enough evidence to charge the boy on that mugging.


      All this means the police did have a valid reason to investigate the case. The officers may have behaved improperly, but the fact that they were investigating a crime and had a legitimate reason to be there still stands. According to the state law, the homeowner did commit a felony if he recorded the officers' conversation without their knowledge and consent.


      I do not think he's entitled to any compensation at all, what he did was to try to obstruct the investigation of his son's crimes. If I understood TFA well (and I *did* read it) the only reason why the wiretapping charges were dropped was because the city attorney thought that, given the public uproar on the case, a jury would be unlikely to find the homeowner guilty.


      Well, I hope that, if the son is really guilty of that mugging, the jury gives him his due punishment.

      • Re:RTFA (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mikeswi (658619) * on Saturday August 05, 2006 @01:14PM (#15852830) Homepage Journal
        All true but none of that is relevant. It boils down to two facts:

        1) The officers had no warrant when they showed up at the door the first time and there was no probable cause to believe a crime was being committed right there on the property.

        2) They were asked to leave - repeatedly. They did not.

        Since they had no warrant or probable cause, they had no more rights to be on that man's private property than I would have. Since they did not leave when asked, they were guilty of trespassing. One cop even stuck his foot in the door. I don't know if that counts as breaking and entering in that particular city, but if so, the cop did it.

        The only laws broken in that incident were broken by the police. Their supervisor evidently agrees.
      • Re:RTFA (Score:3, Insightful)

        by b0s0z0ku (752509)
        According to the state law, the homeowner did commit a felony if he recorded the officers' conversation without their knowledge and consent.

        Well, then state law should be changed. Cops on duty should not have any right to privacy. If they know that they're working in a fishbowl, the potential for police abuse goes way down.

        -b.

      • Re:RTFA (Score:5, Insightful)

        by zerocool^ (112121) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @02:04PM (#15853008) Homepage Journal

        The law is NOT about the search for truth.

        If it were, there would be no laws governing search and siezure, chain of evidence, entrapment, or a number of other long-standing and well-established laws that we respect, if not revere.

        These laws are necesary to ensure that the government does not run roughshod over the civil liberties of its citizens.

    • I'm with you to some extent, except SCREW this:

      He is entitled to compensation, say $1000 per hour for every hour between the time he was charged and the time he knew for sure that the charges were dropped.

      That's just a recipe for every idiot to start screaming at cops to try and get arrested in order to win the "cop lottery". I don't want my tax dollars going to people like that. Let's keep in mind, that while I think it's BS that this guy was arrested, he was NOT a "good guy". He was an a-hole trying

    • Re:Yeah, But... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by noidentity (188756)
      A-fucking-men!

      These days the mere process of being accused but not charged is itself an injustice that must be compensated for.
  • by chill (34294) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @12:15PM (#15852636) Journal
    Now they can focus on the guy they dragged out of his yard [slashdot.org] and arrested for daring to photograph the cops with his cellphone camera. After that, they can re-evaluate just what "Live Free or Die" means.
    • After that, they can re-evaluate just what "Live Free or Die" means.
      The present administration has been re-evaluating this and is favoring the the latter of the two options for its subj^H^H^H^Hcitizens.
    • The police routinely film the public going about their business and are granted exemption from any laws prohibiting secret filming/recording. Then when they get an interesting film clip they sell it to a TV company for broadcasting.

      A citizen who films and records visitors to his house and has a notice to that effect faces official harrassment and criminal charges.

      2000 years ago the Romans were asking "quis custodiet custodiens" ("Who will guard the guardians"?). It seems that we have not found the
  • Article says that the police still think he's guilty, but the case isn't worth prosecuting.

    I think I have to agree with the police on that. Sure, the guy had a sticker that says he's recording things, and normally, if the police were on his property after seeing the sticker, that would count as consent to be recorded. But apparently, the sticker was too small to be reasonably noticable. Given that, I'd say the police did not implicitly agree to be recorded, and as they did not explicitly agree to be recorde
    • And what happens in a man's FRONT YARD relates to wire-tapping how?

      Wire tapping is to prevent the COPS from doing illegal stuff on a phone line, it's not there to prevent someone from recording what is happening on their property locally. By that standard, every goddamn person at any live concert anywhere oh or any newscast or any kid taped at a baseball game by someone else's parents could have the camera person charged as a criminal that should be thrown in jail. (Even a stupid ass that posts "first pro
    • Re:Frist Prost? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Saturday August 05, 2006 @12:34PM (#15852703) Homepage
      This was outside in a place open to view by the public and within earshot of neighbors right? Yes -- it was on his front porch. The cops have no reasonable expectation of privacy when they're in plain site in the public view from a common vid-cam. Neither does anybody. Sure, caveats exist, e.g., upskirt wouldn't fit in "normal". What disturbs me is that people seem so willing to relinquish their rights. Comments such as yours bode poorly for the future -- a future where the state is free to do as it wishes and citizens must always be careful lest some simple harmless act lands them in jail.
    • Re:Frist Prost? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Bob9113 (14996) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @12:39PM (#15852716) Homepage
      Given that, I'd say the police did not implicitly agree to be recorded, and as they did not explicitly agree to be recorded, that's all she wrote.

      What you are referring to is the concept of "expectation of privacy." If a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, then privacy is their right. They must give up that right or the recording is illegal. For example, recording a person in a public park requires no authorization, because there is no expectation of privacy. Recording a person in the bathroom requires authorization, because they have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

      So the question then becomes, do the police have a reasonable expectation of privacy? First, do they ever have a reasonable expectation of privacy when executing the law? I think that we could probably come up with some reasonable situations in which regular police have that expectation during the execution of their duty, but I think generally it would not hold. The police are public servants with extraordinary powers. As such, it is vital to our form of government that they be accountable for their actions. Accountability hinges on public knowledge. While there are situations in which a person may be accountable without public knowledge, public knowledge is the only way to guarantee accountability.

      Do they have a reasonable expectation of privacy when executing the law in a public place? How could they? It is a public place. The very concept of a public place is that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.

      Do they have a reasonable expectation of privacy when executing the law on someone's private property? Absolutely not. Does the local Circle K give up its right to use its cameras when a police officer walks into the store? It is an absurd notion.
    • The police don't really have a choice on this one. They've already acted, and put the now-very-public process in motion.

      They can't admit that they're wrong. That'd destroy their credibility. They're supposed to be "experts" on the law and it's interpretation. If they came out and said "Whups, we screwed up," there'd be formal inquiries and all sorts of hell to pay.

      The case is a loser. If they continue down that road, they make it more public and the damage is worse. The DA recognized that there'
  • by (H)elix1 (231155) <slashdot.helix@nOSPaM.gmail.com> on Saturday August 05, 2006 @12:20PM (#15852647) Homepage Journal
    This has yourtube written all over it...
  • Rather, the lack of continuing injustice.

    Justice would be more along the lines of;

    - lots of financial compensation taken from the paychecks of the entire police force (thin blue line my ass, more like gang of thugs they started the "us vs. them" attitude, they can live with it when "them" strike back)
    - the cops involved, fired. _ALL_ of them. Within 50 yards and able to speak up (still posessing vocal cords) and not stopping it. Fired.
    - DA, bullet in the head for not being a voice of reason INSTANTLY. He
  • by strangedays (129383) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @12:25PM (#15852670)
    It should be public policy to record all police activity, to protect officers against false claims of abuse, and also to protect the public against the possibility of such abuse. The same policy is needed in all other agencies with draconian powers of search seizure and arrest. In other words, any official with opportunity and motive for abuse of power should be monitored and recorded whenever they are on duty.

    The technology exists and can become ubiquitous.

    There have been many examples where the fortuitous presence of a video camera, has revealed extremes of behavior in security personnel.

    There's too much "Us", and "Them", in the security agency mindset. Lets make "evidence" (That which is seen) work both ways, its not "us" and "them", its "we the people".

    The people must watch the watchers.

  • IANAL - civil suit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jeffsenter (95083) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @12:27PM (#15852680) Homepage
    I am not a lawyer. Now the wrongly arrested Gannon should file a civil suit against the police. It looks like he has a decent case for false arrest. This is one standard way a person goes on offense to remedy wrongful police behavior. It is not super effective, but it is much better than doing nothing.

    The state wiretap law notwithstanding, [police chief] Hefferan said citizens and businesses have the right to set up security systems that include audio recording, but they must post clear, obvious notice to warn anyone within range. The "obscure little sticker" Gannon had posted on the side of his house wasn't enough, Hefferan said.

    While police are never good sources for a fair interpretation of the law, the police chief's assertion that the problem was the size of the sticker denoting the video/audio recording indicates that the police don't have much to stand on.
    • by jafiwam (310805)
      No shit. Where is the sign at the local Wal-Mart?

      Local school?

      Local mall?

      Is there a billboard sized sign on the outside edge of every property line of every gas station in the united states saying there is recording? No? (It's a tiny little sign you have to get right up to the pump to notice.)

      "Size of sign" is a weak ass excuse.

      I hope the entire police department there goes bankrupt due to this. They diserve it. No new body armor for you this year punk!
      • Short attention span (Score:2, Informative)

        by bidule (173941)

        Don't you kids remember that what is "illegal" is the voice recording?

        This was said repeatedly in the previous /. article. If you want to keep your brain offline when yakking around, at least use it when moderating. Stupid brainless groupthink.
  • by bjason82 (820735) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @12:33PM (#15852698)
    When I read the first article about that man who was arrested because his home surveillance system had recorded a police officer who came to his home to speak to him I was fairly disturbed. It is no secret that our constant "legal" state of national emergency, that we have lived under for decades, has pretty much suspended the constitution. The laws passed following 9/11 took things that much further to where we are now. A man has the right to film his own property and anyone who passes onto it, so why was he arrested and charged with wiretapping because of the police's dislike of him? The thing I dont understand is how can the police allow themselves to be so propagandized and "programmed" to the point at which they no longer enforce the liberties granted to us under the constitution. I have read internal FBI memos that have been leaked and they discuss how the agents should be on the look out for different types of terrorist groups and they list certain characteristics of each. They characterize people who speak of their "constitutional rights" as being trouble makers. Am I the only one who see something wrong with this? Then again, I guess for most people it is easier to buy into the whole "less liberty/freedom = more protection against terrorists." I hear it all the time. Yes, those big bad arab-muslim terrorists are going to kill all americans...just after they get done killing each other in iraq. I'm not sure if you all have read the papers yet, but the media is reporting how iraq is on the verge of a major civil war...if it hasn't begun already. All i'm saying is this police oppression is nothing more than an extension of the post-9/11 mindset of tyrannical militarism and unreasonable punishment. This is just like the story a few days ago about the three 12 yr old children in england who were arrested and booked for breaking dead branches off trees so they could build a treehouse. What ever happened to the police protecting the people? I have heard more and more, from young and and old alike, that even though they are doing nothing wrong they still feel like they are guilty of something while in the presence of the police. I just dont see why they feel the need to be so intimidating and accusatory.
    • You don't see why? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by absurdist (758409) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @12:58PM (#15852775)
      "I just dont see why they feel the need to be so intimidating and accusatory."

      Because they're assholes and bullies, plain and simple. And please don't ANYONE tell me hoe it's "just a small percentage of bad cops that ruin it for all the good cops." Any time a cop thinks the "thin blue line" is more important than the public, they've gone over to the dark side. Any time a cop looks the other way when fellow cops violate the law in ANY way, they're equally complicit. And if you think this is an exaggeration, look at how highly respected Internal Affairs or civilian oversight groups are held in esteem by every cop on the force in any given city, and how willing those cops are to cooperate with lawful investigations. Look how much they kick and scream about having video or audio recordings of their dealings with the public.

      These people are supposed to be trained professionals who are paid to do their jobs as such. And before you whine to me about how hard their job is, A: they have the badges, guns, big sticks, and the ability to put people in a cage, and B: they knew the job was dangerous when they took it. In fact, for many, that's WHY they took it. We have a right to hold them to a MUCH higher standard, and to come down on them EXTREMELY hard when they don't measure up to that standard. And if they don't like those conditions, they're welcome to find another job. Of course, in that other job, they wouldn't be able to be thugs and bullies, right?

      Remember, kids, power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Police power is no different than any other.
    • The thing I dont understand is how can the police allow themselves to be so propagandized and "programmed" to the point at which they no longer enforce the liberties granted to us under the constitution.

      Maybe they were a bit more worried about enforcing the liberties of the victim of this guy's son. It's easy to forget that their son is a petty criminal who was being investigated.

      • by Myria (562655) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @02:08PM (#15853020)
        Clearly the police weren't wrong in this case about who did the crime, but they could have been. The laws and articles protecting citizens against police power are there because of that possibility.

        There's also the point that it's often the criminals who need the most legal protection.

        Ignorance of how the justice system was designed among the majority of Americans is what is going to turn this country into a police state.

        Melissa
    • I have heard more and more, from young and and old alike, that even though they are doing nothing wrong they still feel like they are guilty of something while in the presence of the police. I just dont see why they feel the need to be so intimidating and accusatory.

      I first noticed this way before 9/11 in our town. The police department uniforms were dark brown shirts and khaki pants with dark brown single stripes running up the sides of the legs. They actually looked sharp and professional. Then it was

  • If these cops have dashboard cameras on their patrol cars, aren't they basically guilty of the same thing?

    I don't recall ever seeing a cop informing a suspect of the existance of their cameras or requesting permission to film them.
    • In my experience, they DO ask. I was in a small traffic accident, and when the cop got out of his car, the first thing he asked was, "Is everyone ok?" Immediately following, he told us that we were being recorded by the camera in his car and a microphone, and that it was within our rights to request that it be turned off.

      It was just a small accident, and it was resolved quickly, but I was surprised that A) he told us about the camera and B) told us we could request to have it turned off. Of course, this co

  • by Crazyscottie (947072) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @01:00PM (#15852780)
    Nooooo! Evil will infest the land of Hyrule once again!
  • by wiredlogic (135348) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @01:10PM (#15852817)
    Great. Now maybe the Nashua police can get around to busting that punk ass kid of his. Legally, of course.
  • by mark-t (151149) <markt@lynx. b c .ca> on Saturday August 05, 2006 @01:36PM (#15852919) Journal

    It was on private property... and it's not like they couldn't have known about the recording device, as the article mentions there was a sign on his property indicating that recording equipment to monitor the area was present.

    If this guy could be charged with wiretapping, why couldn't banks be charged for the same thing for having video cameras on their premises?

  • Boneheads (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Stumbles (602007) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @02:09PM (#15853022)
    While police believe Gannon had violated state wiretap laws, Hefferan wrote in a statement announcing his decision, police and prosecutors concluded the case wasn't strong enough to bother prosecuting.

    And this is different from a business doing the samething and the police asking for their video tape? How exactly? That's what I thought it is not. It's the guys private property... end of story. The police department should be sued for false arrest and harassment at the least.

    But here is the real kicker -

    Police had charged that Gannon violated state wiretap laws by recording officers without their knowledge while they were standing on his front porch

    I think they do not even want to go down that road of reasoning.

  • But if the cops can spy on us while we're out in public, we should be able to record them when they come onto our property.
  • by popsicle67 (929681) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @02:20PM (#15853062)
    This reminds me of an old boy I know that's a retired logger. He would stash extra gas in cans where he was cutting so he wouldn't have to lug it to his area every day. It's a common practice in the field and has been done as long as there have been chainsaws. Sometime during one year a few teenagers were blundering through the skidder trails in their 4x4 when they ran out of gas. They started looking through the brush for some loggers saw gas and found his. If that was the end of it no problem but the kids kept coming back to snag gas so the guy fills up 3 5 gallon cans and mixes a couple of boxes of brown sugar in each can. Later on in the week after he left the cans a sheriff's deputy pulls up to his house(The old boy had borrowed my handycam for this very visit)and gets out all full of bluster saying that he was going to take the price of the new engine out of my friends hide because his kid was the thief. That little Handycam got everything beautifully. We sent a copy to the news paper and it wasn't long before another deputy showed up to haul him away and try to confiscate the camcorder. He was ordered to produce it forthwith by a judge but it just so happens I lent to my mother in law for her 6 month mission in Costa Rica and he turned over the tape but unfortunately he had left it lying around at his son in laws house where several copies were made and sent to T.V. stations wihout his knowledge:D. I still see him from time to time, he still has that deputies nametag on his hat as a warning to the next prick in blue who wants to fuck with him
  • by m874t232 (973431) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @08:16PM (#15853938)
    I suspect one reason the DA didn't want charges to go through is because he didn't want a precedent set.

    It might be possible for the accused in this case to ask for the court to make a judgement even though the DA didn't press charges. That could set a precedent that will make it clear that the NH law cannot apply in these cases. I hope the ACLU or some other organization will support such an effort. Right now, the police can continue to use this law to hassle people.

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