The Joint Venture Exception in the International Silver Platter Doctrine: Variability and Devaluation of Cooperation
This Comment examines the joint venture exception in the international silver platter doctrine in the context of the use of wiretaps in federal narcotics cases. Under the international silver platter doctrine, evidence obtained through searches (like wiretaps) by foreign law enforcement on foreign soil and under foreign law is admissible in U.S. courts. The joint venture exception qualifies the international silver platter doctrine: if participation by U.S. law enforcement in a wiretap by foreign law enforcement on foreign soil constitutes a joint venture, then evidence obtained from the search is admissible only if the wiretap was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. Federal appellate courts lack uniform guidance on which factors to evaluate and weigh in considering whether a joint venture between U.S. and foreign law enforcement existed. This leads to rare findings of joint ventures. If courts do not find that a joint venture existed, courts admit evidence obtained from joint ventures regardless of whether the wiretap complied with foreign law, which provides defendants with no constitutional protections. Based on an empirical and qualitative analysis, this Comment proposes adopting a uniform balancing test for the joint venture exception that considers: (1) who controlled the wiretap, (2) whether U.S. law enforcement provided substantial resources to foreign law enforcement, and (3) how U.S. and foreign law enforcement describe their relationship. This proposal would lead to increased findings of joint ventures in cases involving cooperation in conducting wiretaps between U.S. and foreign law enforcement abroad. Specifically, the proposal would require that more wiretaps comply with the law of the country where they were intercepted. Because courts would find joint ventures more often with my proposed balancing test, my proposal could also increase judicial legitimacy, since courts would less often be deciding cases based on illegally obtained evidence from abroad.