Got That New iPod Nano? You Might Risk Arrest In Massachusetts

from the that's-not-good dept

You may have heard that the new iPod Nano that was just released happens to include a voice recorder among other new features. But if you get one, you might want to be careful how you use it — especially in certain states, such as Massachusetts. Slashdot points us to a story about a guy who was arrested in a dispute-gone-wrong with a car repair shop, but the really odd part is that beyond disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, the guy was charged with both “unlawful wiretapping and possessing a device for wiretapping.” Wiretapping? In a dispute involving a mechanic? Apparently the guy had a simple Olympus digital voice recorder in his pocket, which was on during his argument with the repair shop. And Massachusetts is one of twelve states with a law that forbids taping conversations without the approval of everyone involved. Even if you accept such a law (and it doesn’t make much sense to me), the inclusion of “possessing a device for wiretapping” seems really problematic. Digital voice recorders are quite common. Plus, many mobile phones and even cameras include similar things. And, of course, now with the new iPods including that, does it mean it’s illegal to carry one in Massachusetts (or those eleven other states) without first announcing it and getting permission? Obviously no one’s likely to get arrested just for carrying around an iPod Nano, but the fact that the law makes such a scenario possible demonstrates a pretty serious problem with the law.

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Comments on “Got That New iPod Nano? You Might Risk Arrest In Massachusetts”

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Shawn (profile) says:

A coupla things From the slashdot discussion and a glance through the Ma General Laws-

Calling it a wiretapping law is misleading because it is actually a law governing “Interception of wire and oral communications.”
I do not think all parties have to APPROVE of the recording taking place, they must be AWARE of it. So if he had said ‘I am recording this conversation’ he would have been in the clear.

The Possession of a device for wiretapping charge is ridiculous. In reading the account of the incident it sounds like the guy was a behaving like a total asswipe, and my guess is he pissed the cop off and the cop decided to charge him with everything he could come up with.

and yeah it is a farked up law

Free Capitalist (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Calling it a wiretapping law is misleading because it is actually a law governing “Interception of wire and oral communications.”

Thanks for clearing that up. I was acutally beginning to wonder how the prosecutor could prove that the wire leading from the defendant was in fact securely anchored in the mechanic’s skull.

Even still, it does sound like a mess of a law.

Scote (profile) says:

SOP for criminal law.

It is very common for ordinary items to be charged as criminal based on context. A screw driver is a screwdriver until the cops decide to charge you with burglary, in which case they also charge you with possession of burglary tools. Or if they charge you with assault, in which case they charge you with illegal possession of a concealed dirk or dagger (and under CA case law even a pen or pencil can be charged as a “dirk or dagger.”) It is ridiculous to charge the recorder as an illegal wiretapping device, but no more so that than charging other items as being illegal based on the alleged context.

rf says:

Re: SOP for criminal law.

it’s a common expression among those persecuted…er…prosecuted by the us federal govt that “they can indict a ham sandwich” in that with the advent of conspiracy laws, if they feds want you they can take you no matter what without evidence of any sort or even an actual crime having taken place

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Technology

The button is there to avoid accidental button presses is true, but accidents are unintentional and happen.

For those non-flip phones, maybe it should’ve been designed so that you must press a certain combination of keys to make a call every time so then there are no more accidents. Except for those times when your butt cheeks press the keys in just the right order…

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Technology

Yeah, I was thinking about my non flip phone that I had before. To unlock it you had to hit * and a 4 digit code, I had trouble unlocking it when I wanted to. And yet, the phone would call people all the time. My dad’s phone douse this and he’s got a belt clip. Somehow my sister’s phone did this and it is a flip phone. We still haven’t figured out how that worked.

I had a Dell Axim a little while ago. It had a built in voice recorder. To use it you had to unlock it then click a button to bring up the software and again to start recording. Regularly I would see random audio files with just background noise.

Now imagine an iPod nano, a device designed to be small and easily used, in someones pocket.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:


“a story about a guy who was arrested in a dispute-gone-wrong with a car repair shop, but the really odd part is that beyond disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, the guy was charged with both “unlawful wiretapping and possessing a device for wiretapping.””

Please tell me that guy’s name was Dick Cheney. Pretty please?

The Cenobyte (profile) says:

Is there an exception for dash cameras?

If there isn’t than every single police officer that has ever used a car with a dash cam in it needed to have the book thrown at them. Also every officer in the state that owns a cell phone, ipod with mic, Camera with video, home tape recorder, PDA needs to be arrested. Also any case where dash cameras where used as evidence needs to be overturned as the camera evidence was obtained illegally.

Shawn (profile) says:

Re: Is there an exception for dash cameras?

It shall not be a violation of this section—

c. for investigative and law enforcement officers of the United States of America to violate the provisions of this section if acting pursuant to authority of the laws of the United States and within the scope of their authority.

d. for any person duly authorized to make specified interceptions by a warrant issued pursuant to this section.

e. for investigative or law enforcement officers to violate the provisions of this section for the purposes of ensuring the safety of any law enforcement officer or agent thereof who is acting in an undercover capacity, or as a witness for the commonwealth; provided, however, that any such interception which is not otherwise permitted by this section shall be deemed unlawful for purposes of paragraph …

Anonymous1 says:

@AC: Go on comment boards making inane comments much?
If you don’t think it’s newsworthy then get lost, and get bent. Simple see? There’s no need to waste our time reading your critique of what is or isn’t newsworthy. You’re just another person who, probably has been targeted by Mike, probably because of your own stupidity, and you are just lashing out. You’re a pathetic worm, with no point. How’s that sound?

Lance (profile) says:

Wire Tapping Device

The law exists as a companion to the rules on searches and seizures. It is actually a way for citizens to work around being unknowingly taped by police informants. Believe it or not, the police informant can record an encounter without a warrant. the reasoning for this is that the informant could simply recount the conversation (which requires no warrant) so not record it. The charge for possessing wiretapping equipment is a charge after the fact. He got caught with the equipment on his person after he taped the conversation. The analogy to the screwdriver from a previous post was quite accurate.

Shawn (profile) says:

Re: Wire Tapping Device

While I was in the law I saw the section that explains this-

5. Possession of interception devices prohibited.

A person who possesses any intercepting device under circumstances evincing an intent to commit an interception not permitted or authorized by this section, or a person who permits an intercepting device to be used or employed for an interception not permitted or authorized by this section, or a person who possesses an intercepting device knowing that the same is intended to be used to commit an interception not permitted or authorized by this section, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a jail or house of correction for not more than two years or by a fine of not more than five thousand dollars or both.

vidiot says:

Recording vs. playing

I’d always thought that most recording-consent laws were less concerned with the simple act of recording and more concerned with it being played for others… or EVER being played, for that matter. Kind of like the tree falling in the forest… if the recording is never heard by anyone, there’s no potential for harm. And with a consent law in place, you can never (legally) play it back for a third party. Obviously, that’s not the case here.

okwhen (profile) says:

Wire Tapping

Our government under the USA PATRIOT Act is recording every conversation, internet transaction, bank transaction, street camera and so on. Moreover, the thing is, no one seems to even give a shit and chime in on something like this. Until people stand-up and fire these so-called representatives and take part in their country you get what you deserve. Americans have fallen into a heaping pile of shit and unfortunately, the majority of them are enjoying it.

Rekrul says:

My state has this same idiotic law about recording conversations. Apparently, you’re supposed to inform the person you’re talking with that they’re about to incriminate themselves on tape, before you get them to incriminate themselves on tape.

“Your honor, this person stole a large sum of money from me. He also committed perjury by lying to this court. I could prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he stole the money and lied about it, only it’s illegal for me to do so because I can’t legally record his confession.”

Yeah, that makes sense…

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