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Law School Case Brief

United States v. Jones - 542 F.2d 661 (6th Cir. 1976)

Rule:

The court's review of the legislative history of 18 U.S.C.S. § 2511, testimony at congressional hearings, and debates on the floor of Congress, inescapably lead to the conclusion that 18 U.S.C.S. § 2511(1)(a) establishes a broad prohibition on all private electronic surveillance and that a principal area of congressional concern was electronic surveillance for the purposes of marital litigation.

Facts:

Defendant husband was indicted on the underlying offense of placing interspousal wiretaps on the telephones within the marital home to obtain evidence to use in a divorce proceeding. Since the facts were virtually undisputed and trial of the substantive charges would not substantially assist the court in deciding the legal issue raised by the motion to dismiss the indictment, the district judge ruled that defendant's conduct fell within an implied exception to 18 U.S.C.S. § 2511(1)(a) for purely interspousal wiretaps. Consequently, the district court dismissed the charge, and the government appealed.

Issue:

Did the husband’s conduct fall within an implied exception to 18 U.S.C.S. § 2511(1)(a) for purely interspousal wiretaps?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The Court held that the district court's conclusion that defendant was immune from prosecution for intercepting and recording his wife's telephone conversations contradicted both the explicit language of the statute and the clear intent of Congress expressed in the Act's legislative history. The statute established a broad prohibition on all private electronic surveillance and that a principal area of congressional concern was electronic surveillance for the purposes of marital litigation.

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