Title VII – Litigation Concerning Sources of Evidence

There are two operative provisions of title VII, both of which mitigate previous judicially imposed restrictions on governmental collection and presentation of evidence in “any trial, hearing, or other proceeding in or before any court, grand jury, department, officer, agency, regulatory body, or other authority of the United States.” The first purports to set aside the Supreme Court’s holding in the 1968 case of Alderman v. United States, in which the Court held that, in cases involving unlawful electronic surveillance, the government must make full disclosure to the defendant of all records in its possession which contain any of his conversation or involving conversations which took place on premises owned by him. In so ruling, the Court specifically rejected the Government’s contention that once a defendant has established his standing to contest admission of the evidence and the illegality of the Government’s action, a court should then screen the Government’s files in camera and deliver to the defendant only material which might prove “arguably relevant” in establishing the causal relationship between the unlawful surveillance and the evidence being challenged. The purpose of the second provision is to establish a rule of law that no court may consider any claim that evidence offered to prove a crime is inadmissible on the ground that it was obtained by the exploitation of an unlawful act if the alleged unlawful act occurred more than five years prior to the crime being proved. Title VII is one of the more controversial sections of the Act. These provisions represent congressional unwillingness to abide the protracted procedural delays which have resulted primarily from motions to suppress evidence obtained by the Government via alleged illegal electronic surveillance. The Senate Committee Report on S. 30 noted that when an organized crime leader is brought into court, an alternative to tampering with the witnesses as a means of avoiding or delaying prosecution is to challenge the admissibility of the evidence. Motions to suppress evidence generally entail a long and costly process, “especially so in cases involving alleged illegal electronic surveillance.” The Senate Committee referred to a “procedural crisis” caused by the filing of motions to suppress, which was worsened by the Alderman requirement for full disclosure. Furthermore, where such disclosure is made, it is claimed that several undesirable results are possible, including the chilling effect it may have on other pending investigations and prosecutions, the damage which the reputations of innocent third parties may suffer, and the difficulty it may create in recruitment of confidential informants.