In order for federal prosecutors to obtain a criminal conviction, they must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. They may try to achieve this in a number of ways: calling witnesses, cross-examining the defense's witnesses, and introducing evidence. However, there are strict rules that apply to physical evidence and witness testimony, which are put in place to protect Americans from unfair treatment under the law. When those rules are broken, individuals can wind up facing criminal charges that they should not.
This may have been the case for hundreds of people who were arrested on federal drug charges. According to reports, a nation-wide wiretapping operation based out of California was illegal, as it was improperly reviewed and approved. The District Attorney responsible for reviewing and signing off on wiretap applications is alleged to have given that work to lower level attorneys.
It is unclear if or how this will affect the convictions of those who were arrested as a result of those wiretaps. However, what is clear is that gross injustices happen in the criminal law system far too often, as this incidence attests. This is why it is critical for those who are facing criminal charges to carefully craft their defense and ensure that no stone is left unturned.
Identifying and presenting a procedural error to a court could be enough to obtain an acquittal. This means the defendant can go home to their family and resume normal life. Though it may not be a glorious defense, it certainly is one that may have results. Therefore, those who face allegations of committing a federal drug offense may want to discuss the matter with an experienced criminal defense attorney to learn what defense options are available to them.
Source: USA Today, "Police used apparently illegal wiretaps to make hundreds of arrests," Brad Heath and Brett Kelman, Nov. 20, 2015