Phone taps are an almost essential part of nearly any investigation. They are very common, and when someone other than the government does a tap on your line, you can usually find it. This is because non-government phone taps usually require some sort of device to be physically present on the scene, or not far from the scene. Because these devices usually involve some sort of a transmitter, you can sweep for phone bugs in order to make sure your home is safe.
Government phone taps, however, are different. Nothing is physically present at your home. There are no transmitters. Some may use a down the line tap, but for the most part, government taps are done at the phone company. They are allowed into the switchboard and can actually tap your phone right at the source of your service. This is true not only for more traditional phone setups, but also for cell phones. Your cell phone can be tapped simply by going to the service provider and getting access to the line of communication that way.
Phone taps are very helpful to the government, as it allows it to listen in for information that might support a case or to help during an investigation. However, technically a warrant must be issued for a phone tap before the government can breach your privacy in such a manner. There has to be probable cause that you are involved in some illegal doings in order for your phone to be tapped. However, once your phone is tapped there is no way for you to know until you are arrested (and if you are not, you may never know that your phone was tapped). There is no detection available for government phone taps, no matter what anyone tells you.
Sometimes mistakes are made during government phone taps. The investigators may tap into the wrong the line. This means that they could be listening in where they do not have a warrant. In such cases, the government is not supposed to be able to use information gained as evidence. They have to go back and get a new warrant, and they have to discard whatever they got from the illicit phone tap. However, the information might be used to open a new investigation. So, while you have some protections, it is important to realize that, for the most part, there really isnt much you can do when it comes to government phone taps.
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