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Court protects spousal communication in drug case

In a win for criminal defense attorneys in New Jersey, a state appellate court has ruled that investigators cannot tap a married couple's phones to track calls to each other. The decision was made in connection with a couple facing drug charges. The pair was accused of managing a drug-dealing network in two New Jersey counties.

Authorities had allegedly tapped each person's phone, recorded the conversations they had between each other and attempted to use that information in court. The higher court ruled the conversations between the married couple could be classified as "privileged," meaning they are not legally viable. A trial judge had decided in 2012 the interactions were not protected because supposed drug-trafficking conversations were not worthy of protection.

Even though the appellate court agreed that drug trafficking is a serious crime, state law does not provide any exception for the conversations between spouses. Certain other privileges exist that cannot be violated, including those between physician and patient, as well as those between a clergy member and congregant. Attorneys for the defense had argued that the spousal communication carries with it an expectation of privacy that should not be intruded upon by the courts or police officers.

The husband in the case is accused of sending several text messages and calling his wife with instructions about drug-related tasks. The couple was later arrested along with 22 other defendants in connection with the manufacture, possession and distribution of both heroin and cocaine, according to official reports.

If you are facing criminal charges in New Jersey, you should know your legal rights are protected by a strict set of laws. This exciting new development will provide even more protection for spouses who are under fire for talking about their alleged misdeeds. Criminal defendants in this and other situations should consider seeking the assistance of a qualified defense attorney who can help you learn more about your legal rights and responsibilities.

Source:  www.nj.com, "Wiretaps of husband and wife accused of drug dealing can't be used in court, appellate judges rule" Seth Augenstein, May. 21, 2013

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