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1051. "Intentional" State Of Mind

The 1986 Act changed the state of mind required to violate Sections 2511 and 2512 from "willful" to "intentional." The purpose of the amendment was to make clear that inadvertent interceptions are not crimes under Title III. The legislative history of the 1986 Act explains what is meant by the term "intentional":

"Intentional" means more than that one voluntarily engaged in conduct or caused a result. Such conduct or the causing of the result must have been the person's conscious objective. A common means to describe conduct as intentional, or to say that one causes the result intentionally, is to state that it is done or accomplished "on purpose."

S.Rep. No. 541, 99th Cong., 2d Sess. 23 (1986).

Courts have imposed a higher state of mind for the use provision, 18 U.S.C. § 2511(1)(d), under a close reading of the statutory language that specifically requires a person know or have reason to know that "the information was obtained . . . in violation of this subsection." See, e.g., United States v. Wuliger, 981 F.2d 1497, 1501-02 (6th Cir. 1992), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1191 (1994); Earley v. Smoot, 846 F. Supp. 451, 453 (D. Md. 1994) (noting that proof of knowledge of the unlawfulness of the interception had been required for only the use of the interception, not the making of it, and that the language of 18 U.S.C. § 2511(1)(a) permitted liability for intentional conduct without a showing of disregard of a known legal duty).

[cited in JM 9-60.200]

Updated January 21, 2020