State v. Wanrow

88 Wash. 2d 221, 559 P.2d 548 (1977)



The term "private communication" in Wash. Rev. Code § 9.73.030 (1) encompasses an incoming telephone call to a police station.


After a shooting incident, the defendant’s friend called the police, stating, "There's a guy broke in, and my girlfriend shot him." Defendant took the phone and engaged in a conversation with the police operator. The tape recording of the conversation was admitted into evidence. The jury was directed to consider only those acts and circumstances occurring at or immediately before the killing. The trial court convicted defendant of murder. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the tape recording of the emergency phone call had been erroneously admitted. The state supreme court affirmed.


Did the term "private communication" in Wash. Rev. Code § 9.73.030 cover defendant’s incoming telephone call to the police station and thus render such evidence inadmissible in court?




Wash. Rev. Code §§ 9.73.030(1) and § 9.73.050, which prohibits the secret recording of private communications and the use of those recordings in judicial proceedings, clearly applied to incoming calls to a police station. Wash. Rev. Code § 9.73.090(1) permitted the recording of emergency calls by police departments only for the purpose of verifying emergency information.

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