Wiretap amendment rejected

By ERICA YOUNG

West Virginia Press Association Capitol Reporter

CHARLESTON, W.VA — Delegate Pat McGeehan, R-Hancock, urged the rest of the W.Va. House Judiciary Committee to agree to his proposed amendment this morning, but noted that he “always maintains low expectations in the legislature.”

McGeehan presented his amendment to the Committee Substitute to SB 61, last week, a bill to amend and reenact §62-1D-8 of the Code of West Virginia, which added a new list of crimes for which a prosecutor could “apply for a court order authorizing interception of communications.”

Will Sorensen, counsel to the House Judiciary Committee, explained he had created a strike and insert amendment because several of the crimes listed as “new crimes” were already written. This amendment listed extortion and attempted extortion as the only new crimes.

Delegate McGeehan’s amendment was to change the wording of the bill regarding a line discussing when a prosecutor “has shown reasonable cause to believe the interception to provide evidence” of a crime. McGeehan said he wanted to replace the clause “reasonable cause to believe” with “by a preponderance of the evidence.”

He said the purpose for the amendment was to protect people from unnecessary invasions of privacy by requiring “a higher legal threshold” for a wiretap.

Delegate Moore Capito, R-Kanawha, said that while he appreciated McGeehan’s efforts to preserve privacy, that he would oppose the amendment because “when generally seeking a wiretap, there’s no evidentiary hearing” so he did not believe the clause would fit into the bill.

Following a vote, the amendment was rejected, after which Committee Chair John Shott, R-Mercer,  jokingly commented to McGeehan that his “expectations are sustained.”