New Hampshire Wire Tap Laws and the Wheedling Legislature - Granite Grok

New Hampshire Wire Tap Laws and the Wheedling Legislature

“All men profess honesty as long as they can. To believe all men honest would be folly. To believe none so is something worse.” —John Quincy Adams

Yesterday, a Union Leader Editorial featured commentary about the flaws of New Hampshire’s Wire Tapping and Eavesdropping laws currently in place. The commentary came on the heels of the Supreme Court upholding the Conviction of the now-deceased and infamous Kristin (McDonald) Ruggiero, an evil shrew who sought to use the courts as a cudgel and see her ex-husband locked away, ruined and broken.

The nexus of Kristin’s appeal asserted that the lower court incorrectly admitted photographic evidence of her committing her crime. The problem for Kristin was evidence established she placed the calls from California to South Carolina, jurisdictions that lack the criminally enabling restrictions codified in New Hampshire statutes. Summarily, she lost her appeal. Following notification by her lawyer, Mark Sisti, the grim reaper came for a visit shortly thereafter.

The Union Leader correctly states the problem where the statute does not reference conversational content being recorded or, “of the relationship of the parties to the conversation. It simply prohibits people from recording others without their permission or sharing these recordings.” On its face, the statute thereby enables gross criminal acts of threats or crimes not occurring in open and public view, preclusion as evidence in a subsequent court action or prosecution. The UL editorial also aptly points out the, “Prevention of people involved in contentious domestic disputes from using audio recordings of disagreements.” In 1999, David Hooper was found civilly liable for invasion of privacy after recording conversations with his ex-wife regarding the care of their minor child. The Supreme Court upheld the decision based on New Hampshire law.

2010 brought us a vigorous political season with an endless parade of candidates, espousing, liberty, transparency in government and correction of the arbitrariness of laws. The political conversation often devolved into discussions about RSA 570-A and those who vowed to change the wire tap and eavesdropping laws. Many faux conservatives were never short on criticism for 570-A, but eschewed the details needing changes.

Legislative sessions have come and gone with this current Senate and House. and during that time, there have been feeble and tepid attempts to tweak and tamper with the law. House Bill 553, making various changes to the wiretapping and eavesdropping statute, did nothing but make some language changes that amounted to technicratic housekeeping. The Bill, sponsored by Representative Jordan Ulery, (R) Hillsborough 27, kept the law “status quo. It was retained in committee.

House Bill 145, Sponsored by, Representatives Al Baldasaro, Rock 3; Jennifer Coffey, Merr 6; John. Hikel, Hills 7; Lars Christiansen, Hills 27; and Dan Itse, Rock 9.  The Bill would permit the audio and video recording of a law enforcement officer while in the course of his or her official duties, sought to make legal that which should already be legal, yet failed to address the needs of citizens. It is of no consequence, anyway, the bill was re-referred.

Just two bills were filed on the issue. And on the latter bill an otherwise conservative State Senator amended the bill to require disclosure prior to any such recording. If that isn’t a RINO-like move, I certainly do not know what is.

This legislature is not in the least bit serious about transparency of government or a citizen’s right to capture criminal behavior for accountability. There has been no serious effort by anyone in this legislature to enhance the rights and protections of citizens. There is no legal remedy for the citizen who receives an unlawful communication from another who threatens to harm him or her. There is no legal remedy for the bitter ex-spouse who calls the other ex-spouse and makes threats, or speaks in some other compromising fashion, because any subsequent recording bears the weight of punishment, civil and criminal. When we scratched the surface the RINO’s stepped up to dumb things down.

If a person calls my house repeatedly and threatens to kill me, I can call the Police and make a complaint. If the person denies the allegation, no arrest can be made because it is my word against his (or her) word. If I make an audio recording of any subsequent threat, that threat would not be admissible in a criminal proceeding because I violated the law. I would summarily be prosecuted for a violation under RSA 570-A.

This is not rocket science. Engaging in a criminal act should never be shielded by the protections in the law. Quite simply, I should be allowed to record my telephone, my living space and my vehicle without a duty to disclose that I am doing so. If there is an inherent risk of being recorded, people will conduct themselves differently, hopefully in a more lawful manner.

Second, there is no right to privacy in a public place. We should be able to record and video police without them having to say anything about it. If a member of the public is not interfering with the carrying out of their duties, such recording should be a non-issue.

Finally, the UL Editorial states, “Legislators, who will consider changes to the wiretap law early next year, need to mull ways to fix these flaws.” Really?  Show me the bill or LSR where something was filed. There are none.