Wiretap Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Wiretap, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Wiretap?

(n) Wiretap is the unauthorized tapping of telephone line with an intention to overhear the communication between two persons. Court by an order allows law enforcement officers to wiretap the communication for stopping criminal activities.

History and Meaning of Wiretap

Wiretapping is a method of electronic eavesdropping for obtaining information in which an individual's conversations or communications are monitored or recorded. The term "wiretap" became popular during the early days of telephone networks when law enforcement agencies used to tap into telephone lines to spy on suspects.

Wiretapping has been around for over a hundred years, beginning with monitoring of telegraph lines in the late 1800s. The Federal Communications Act of 1934 made it illegal to intercept or disclose wire communications, and the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 expanded the government's power to wiretap in response to organized crime.

Examples of Wiretap

  1. The FBI received a wiretap order to monitor the phone conversations of a suspect in a drug trafficking case.
  2. The police installed a wiretap on the suspect's phone line and were able to gather evidence for the ongoing investigation.
  3. The judge issued a wiretap warrant that allowed the investigators to listen to the suspect's conversations.
  4. The government was criticized for its use of wiretaps to monitor phone and internet communications without probable cause.
  5. For years, the NSA secretly operated a wiretapping program that monitored the phone calls and emails of millions of Americans.

Legal Terms Similar to Wiretap

  1. Surveillance - the monitoring of people, places or things in order to collect information.
  2. Interception - the act of intercepting something, such as a communication or a package.
  3. Eavesdropping - the act of secretly listening to the conversations of other people.
  4. Tap - to secretly listen to or record someone's conversation or phone call.
  5. Monitoring - the act of observing a situation or process for a specific purpose.