Massachusetts Woman Charged With Unlawful Wiretapping For Recording Her Own Arrest

arrest14n-2-webWe have a long list of cases where police have arrested citizens for filming them in public despite repeated court rulings that this is a protected practice. I previously discussed this issue in a column. Massachusetts’s police and prosecutors have been particularly aggressive to pursuing citizens. That record has continued this week with Karen Dziewit, 24, of Chicopee who has been charged with unlawful wiretapping after she recorded her arrest.

Police officers Jameson Williams and Clay Canning responded to a call that Dziewit was screaming and disturbing the tenants of the buildings. She refused to cooperate and they were proceeding to taken her into custody for disorderly conduct and an open container violation when she activated her smart phone to record. It was very similar to a case out of Indiana that we discussed previously.

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Dziewit is described as “irate,” “belligerent” and having “a strong odor of alcohol emanating from her person.” She reportedly demanded that the police also arrest two men that she had gone to the bar with that night. The police were booking Dziewit when she reportedly started to scream “something to the effect of, ‘I’ve been recording this thing the whole time, my phone is in my purse, see you in court.’” Police discovered the phone (along with a half-empty pint of Five O’clock Vodka seized from her purse) and she was charged with unlawful wiretapping. Note that this recording concerned a public arrest.

Massachusetts is a two-party consent state that makes it illegal to record someone’s voice without the person’s knowledge or permission. Chapter 272, Section 99 of the General Laws criminalizes any act “to secretly hear, secretly record, or aid another to secretly hear or secretly record the contents of any wire or oral communication through the use of any intercepting device by any person other than a person given prior authority by all parties to such communication.”

Dziewit is clearly not compelling if the alleged misconduct is true. Her companions said that they were driving home when she became upset and got out of the car and slapped one of the men. However, that does not alter the question involving the wiretapping charge. Police and prosecutors continue to prevent recordings that constitute the single most effective weapon against police abuse. These statutes clearly were not meant to protect the police from citizens. To the extent that it criminalizes recording in public places it run afoul of the same rights detailed in prior rulings for citizens.

Springfield Police Capt. Harry Kastrinakis has allowed this charge in full knowledge that it would deter citizens from recording officers in public – a result that would radically reduce the ability to hold police accountable. There is no indication in this case that there was police abuse, which makes it a good case to try to curtail the rights of citizens generally.

What is curious is that this effort is continuing by the prosecutors despite the earlier case from Boston in 2011 where an attorney was found to have been unlawfully arrested for videotaping police in public. Of course, that was done openly rather than surreptitiously. However, the taping still captured statements made to a citizen in a public setting. As noted above, we continue to see the abuse of citizens who are detained or arrested for filming police in public. (For prior columns, click here and here). Despite consistent rulings upholding the right of citizens to film police in public, these abuses continue.

These cases show a continuing hostility by both prosecutors and police to this technology and the often determinative evidence that it produces in cases that were once dismissed as mere conflicts between the accounts of police and a citizen. Massachusetts continues (with Illinois) to be one of the most hostile states for citizens in using this protected right. This case represents a worrisome factual twist on the surreptitious surveillance that can raise yet another avenue for arrests.

Source: MassLive

22 thoughts on “Massachusetts Woman Charged With Unlawful Wiretapping For Recording Her Own Arrest”

    1. I think any lawyer who makes a mistake should be automatically disbarred.

  1. Do they have video cameras at intersection? Red light tickets? I see how these charges can stand.

  2. “Despite consistent rulings upholding the right of citizens to film police in public, these abuses continue….”

    Should not have been filed, but that’s why people go to court. Maybe a good civil attorney can make her some money off this dubious charge.

    Sort of reminds me of during the Occupy WS protests, many police departments, including those at various Universities, consistently used excessive force and mis-used pepper spray. Only now are the “victims” making money in the court system off of this abuse….

  3. Protect and Serve? Good idea, so why not just take the woman home and give her a ticket — to teach her a lesson & make the cops feel good about what they just did. Oh, wait. doing what they DID do was more satisfying, I suppose.

  4. My opinion only: There are so many liars in the world today that you must protect yourself any way you can. The truth can be dealt with but lies lead to more lies. Public Officials caught in a lie should be fired.

    1. I think the SC is hearing a case in which you can be penalized for ‘lying’ in a political ad. It is there on a technical level, but the oral argument was on the merits. Could be interesting.

  5. Reblogged this on angrymanspeaks and commented:
    While many Americans are still wrapped up in the romantic image of “The Cop” as the protector and hero of the people; it appears that some are willing to face the truth that while they sometimes do good; Cops; as a group; are the direct arm of action of the Conservative Establishment and are trained to control and pacify the people through any and all means necessary and to enforce the unconstitutional directives of said establishment.
    Because a certain type of person is drawn to this job; and because the establishment is essentially a racist entity a high percentage of Cops are racist and willing to show it. They are trained by their masters to be polite and subservient to the wealthy and powerful and disrespectful and violent to the poor and/or weak.
    Rather than the protectors of the people they have become largely the oppressors of the people.

  6. The goons can’t defend themselves in court so they have the BEST EVIDENCE destroyed.

    I guess it’s impossible for a cop to commit a crime while he’s doing his job, or any aspect of it. Preposterous. Either it’s impossible or he is entitled. Either the public can scrutinize a cop doing his job or justice has been corrupted and he’s entitled.

    Who’s running this place. Cops have sustained complaints BURIED and kept out of their files when being considered for promotions etc. Cops function all the time right on the border of illegality with impunity. Police chiefs should be embarrassed to have marginal and unethical people in their ranks. The evidence of dubious character is voluminous and known to chiefs. Unions protect the unscrupulous. Police chiefs hire unstable thugs and goons – they’re nice to have on your side in a dark alley at 2am in South Central, right? The chief doesn’t want to have to work too hard, taking the time to find decent people to hire as cops. Just hire ’em and we’ll protect ’em, right, chief?

    They’re all ENTITLED.

    What would it be like if laws and ethical standards were vigorously enforced against police officers.

    We’ll never know because they are entitled (they are the brotherhood).

  7. Nick Spinelli
    These blue states are horrible and backwards.
    = = =

  8. I wonder if reporters or tourists can be arrested for videotaping tourist traps.

    Again, it bewilders me this is even an issue for some officers. Someone is recording, big deal, there are more important issues to address during an arrest.

    I have been recorded many times. The only time I had to give someone an order was to have them step back twenty feet or so for their own safety. That applied to anyone, camera or not.

  9. It’s hardly a secret recording when it is controlled by a drunk person who shouts out that she is recording the whole thing.

  10. It is no wonder that people don’t trust the police like they used to.

  11. I wonder whether any legal genius can solve the following question…

    I happen to be a licensed amateur radio operator, having an Extra Class license, and I happen to have some amateur radio apparatus that could, in principle, pick up sound from me when I am in Massachusetts, and could, in principle, use amateur radio relay methods to allow receiving the sound signal in Wisconsin, a one-party recording state, where the recording could, in principle, be accomplished in Wisconsin.

    My amateur radio station is federally licensed.

    What hath the principles of federalism and the constitutional principle of full faith and credit to offer about such a notion?

    I intend to never actually do such…


  12. These blue states are horrible and backwards. They just started walking upright in Massachusetts, Nothing but trailer trash and redneck cops!!!

  13. Some drunks just can’t keep their mouth shut. 🙂 However, the arrest on this charge is illegal and should be dropped. Would be interesting if they played the recording showing the officers actually did their job properly to show the illegality of the taping. Chutzpah!

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