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Supreme Court rules Kansas wiretap order not 'insufficient on its face'

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Monday that a wiretap order authorized by a Kansas judge in an investigation of a drug ring was not insufficient on its face, thereby denying the petitioners' request for suppression of the evidence.

Los and Roosevelt Dahda had asked the court to suppress evidence obtained through wiretap orders due to the orders explicitly allowing interception of communication outside the jurisdiction of the judge who authorized the orders. However, the government did not use any information that was obtained from outside the jurisdiction at trial. The petitioners cited the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 with the relevant section codified in 18 USC §2518(10)(a) [text] that gives grounds for suppression of evidence from wiretaps with §2518(10)(a)(ii) being " the order of ... approval under which it was intercepted is insufficient on its face." The Dahdas argued that the extension of the order outside the judge's jurisdiction made the order insufficient on its face and all evidence obtained from the orders should be suppressed not just evidence obtained from outside the jurisdiction.

The Supreme Court engaged in statutory interpretation of the phrase "insufficient on its face" in relation to the statutory scheme as a whole. Eight justices (Neil Gorsuch did not take part) concluded in the opinion written by Justice Stephen Breyer that the phrase related to the statutory requirements of the wiretap order. The courts recognized some of these requirements such as specifying "the identity of the person, if known, whose communications are to be intercepted, a particular description of the type of communication sought to be intercepted, and a statement of the particular offense to which it relates."

Although the court did recognize the provision for extending the order outside the jurisdiction of the judge as a defect, the court stated that without the provision, the order was sufficient on its face and information gathered from that provision was not even used. The court denied the request for suppression of the evidence as the orders were not insufficient as to the statutory requirements.

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