The protections offered by the Fourth Amendment are some of the most important safeguards offered to a people by their government anywhere in the world. The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees you the right to protection from unreasonable searches and seizures. Essentially, this requires the State to obtain a judicially issued warrant, supported by probable cause, before searching your person or property. This Amendment was adopted following the abuse of "general" search warrants during the Revolutionary war.
There are, of course, a handful of exceptions - searches incident to arrest, for example - however it seems that police and courts are always looking for ways to expand this list. We recently sat down with Tampa criminal defense attorney Barry Taracks to discuss a recent ruling by Florida's 4th District Court of Appeals, Hentz v. State, where the Courts ruled on a case involving the recording of jailhouse conversations.
"In Hentz, a suspect was sitting in an interrogation room when he decided to make a call to his associate. That phone call was picked up by the interrogation room's microphones - microphones that are so sensitive that they can pick up both ends of a cell phone call." Mr. Taracks said. "That means that in this particular jail house they had recording equipment so sensitive it heard the other end of a phone call. That means the police can hear everything that goes on in those interrogation rooms."
Mr. Taracks went on to explain that Hentz made incriminating statements to his associate during the phone conversation. The police had recorded these calls and used them as evidence against Hentz. They obtained a warrant and confiscated Hentz's cell phone, where the police found further incriminating evidence. The trial court determined that Hentz did not have a "reasonable expectation of privacy" in his home while talking to an associate located at the jailhouse. Hentz ended up pleading guilty and being sentenced to a year in jail.
On appeal, however, the District Court of Appeals reversed. The Court found that Hentz did have a reasonable expectation of privacy while in his home and that the officers in question did "intentionally" record his statements as they knew the recording equipment was turned on.
Mr. Taracks cautions everyone to watch what they say while in custody. "The Appellate Court did the right thing here. But the bottom line is this: you need to be careful what you say in the jailhouse. The recording equipment is everywhere, and had the facts of this case been slightly different, Mr. Hentz would have had to serve out that whole sentence. I think today with all the electronic equipment being used everywhere, Big Brother is always watching. It's important to watch what you say because, as we have all heard before, what you say can and will be used against you in a court of law."
The law firm of Taracks & Associates is celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year. As former state prosecutors, the lawyers at Taracks & Associates have the knowledge and tools necessary to fight the State's case against you. Often times the police violate the Fourth Amendment rights of arrestees. If you feel that your rights have been violated, call an experienced Tampa criminal defense lawyer today. A consultation is always free - 813-281-2897. Taracks & Associates - The Advocate For You.