Domestic violence cases can often be difficult cases for everyone involved especially if there is a need to settle matters related to family and children and there is a no-contact order involved. A criminal defense case for a suspect accused of domestic violence can also be complicated by monitored phone calls from jail. Phone calls made by an inmate from jail are not private and can be used in the case against them.
Minnesota Public Radio recently did a piece on suspects in St. Paul, Minnesota who choose not to take notice that their calls were being monitored. When a prisoner makes a phone call in Ramsey County a warning is provided that informs the inmate that the call will be monitored. According to the domestic assault supervisor at the St. Paul City Attorney’s office, many domestic violence suspects choose to ignore the warning. The result is that many suspects create more evidence that can be used against them in their case or they break no-contact orders, which creates more legal problems.
Ramsey County keeps tapes of phone conversations placed by defendants from jail. Often and to the detriment of their case, defendants try to plan their way out of alleged charges. One suspect who was arrested for hitting his girlfriend placed a call from jail that instructed his girlfriend to tell police that she made the story up. The defendant’s plan did not work and the phone call ended up violating a no-contact order.
While phone calls placed from jail may be a prosecutor’s best friend, public defenders take issue with the use of jail phone calls in domestic violence cases. Defendants with less resources can be disproportionately affected by the rule since they are less able to post bail, and defendants do not always have a nefarious reason to call the victim. Many defendants have legitimate reasons to reach significant others like the need to discuss a family issue.
Source: MPRnews, “Calls from jail shed light on intimate crime,” Sasha Aslanian, 3/2/11