When the family members or friends of an inmate accept a jailhouse call, they will likely have to acknowledge a recording stating that the call is being recorded. There are also usually signs by the phones in the jail informing inmates that their calls are being recorded. The only calls that remain private are between inmates and their attorneys.
Despite the warning, inmates often talk about their cases over the phone, sometimes even incriminating themselves. Even though attorney-client conversations are privileged, they sometimes are recorded or even monitored live. One such case took place in New York. A prosecutor submitted a recording of an inmate’s conversation with his attorney from a jail call.1 In another case, Baltimore County prosecutors used a recording of an inmate’s call to his ex-girlfriend to present what the judge called “overwhelming, damning evidence of [the inmate’s] guilt.”2
Prosecutors have long been using recorded phone calls as evidence, and inmates have been admitting to crimes during these phone calls for years, so it seems the practice is gaining in popularity. However, jailhouse phone calls must be certified by the telephone provider of the correctional facility to be used by the prosecution.3
When you speak to your lawyer from a jailhouse phone, you need to begin your conversation with the words, “I am only speaking to my lawyer because I know what I tell him is 100% confidential and cannot be used as evidence in a court of law.” This will mean that your phone call is private and can’t be used against you as evidence.
Why Inmates Admit Guilt Over the Phone
Most of the time, inmates don’t think anyone is really listening to their calls, or they may just get caught up in their situation and say too much. Many don’t realize their call can be used as evidence. Inmates may try to pass information, apologize for their action or try to convince someone to lie or hide evidence. Sometimes they talk about their case because they feel lonely and just want to talk about what’s happening. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter why you say too much on the phone, only that you did.
Jailhouse phone calls can be especially damaging in cases where the prosecution has little evidence regarding the crime. Sometimes, who you call can be just as important as what you say. If you call a gang member or someone else involved in your case, it could be used as evidence against you. Once the prosecutor in your case presents your call as evidence, there may not be much that can be done to repair the damage caused by your own words.
While all inmate calls are subject to being recorded, it is up to the prosecutor as to whether they will listen to an inmate’s calls. Some states are considering making it mandatory for prosecutors to review and disclose all evidence that is in “possession, custody or control” of the state, including recorded calls.4
It is more important than ever for inmates and their families and friends to be mindful of their telephone conversations and to remind each other during calls to not talk about their case.
Call the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich
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With offices located in San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange County, Los Angeles, San Diego, Torrance, West Covina, Ventura, Sherman Oaks and Victorville, an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney is available to help you no matter where you work or live.
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1. [http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/Attorney-Client-Privilege-Questioned-After-Inmates-Call-is-Recorded-243407341.html ]↩
2. [http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2012-11-04/news/bs-md-co-recorded-inmate-phone-calls-20121031_1_jail-phone-murder-case-prosecutors ]↩
3. [http://www.policeone.com/investigations/articles/4969203-Inmate-communications-An-investigative-resource/ ]↩
4. [http://www.texaslawyer.com/id=1202728184973/Should-Prosecutors-Listen-to-All-Inmate-Calls?slreturn=20150514162307 ]↩