The New Hampshire Supreme Court overturned a felony wiretapping conviction Tuesday of a blogger who recorded phone conversations with a law enforcement official and two school officials.
The blogger, Adam Mueller, operates the website CopBlock.org, which says it aims to hold police accountable.
A New Hampshire statute makes it a felony for anyone to “willfully intercept” a communication without the consent of all parties to the communication. At trial, the jury was instructed to find Mueller guilty if he “purposefully” intercepted the communications.
The New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled that “purposefully” and “willfully” have two very different meanings. The first simply means that he knowingly recorded the conversation without the parties’ consent. But “willfully” means that the defendant acted “with an intentional or reckless disregard for the lawfulness of his conduct.” Therefore, if the defendant had a “good faith belief” that his recording was lawful, he cannot be guilty.
The trial judge should have explained to the jury that Mueller could only be found guilty if he intentionally or recklessly engaged in unlawful activity, not simply that he knowingly recorded the phone calls without consent, the court said.
The case has been reversed and sent back to the lower court for a new trial.