New Jersey Supreme Court sides with cops in roving wiretaps

Police in New Jersey do not need to get new warrants to wiretap a suspect who keeps changing telephones to avoid detection.

The court on Wednesday unanimously upheld rulings by lower courts that found the practice was justified given the “unpredictable nature” of a narcotics conspiracy.

The justices ruled law enforcement can switch monitoring when a person purposely changes devices to avoid detection. But police must notify the judge who issued the warrant within 48 hours to obtain authorization to continue.

Hector Feliciano pleaded guilty in 2011 to leading a drug-trafficking network in Camden. His lawyer argued the state’s roving wiretap was too broad and unconstitutional.

The court says suspects create an emergency for law enforcement when they begin to frequently change phones and police could miss key evidence.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal