Bubis v. United States

The Cyber Blog IndiaCase Summary

Appeal against the conviction in a case of transmission of wagering information over long-duration phone calls

Alvin Bubis v. United States of America
384 F.2d 643
In the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Case Number 21356
Before Circuit Judge Jertberg, Circuit Judge Browning and Circuit Judge Ely
Decided on October 20, 1967

Relevancy of the case: Appeal against the conviction in a case of transmission of wagering information over long-duration phone calls

Statutes and Provisions Involved

  • Transmission of Wagering Information, 18 USC § 1084

Relevant Facts of the Case

  • The trial court found the defendant guilty of violating Section 1084 and sentenced him to one year’s imprisonment and a $2,000 fine. The court also placed him on probation for one year.
  • A device in the Los Angeles area enabled users to circumvent the telephone company’s automatic record-keeping equipment to avoid long-distance charges.
  • Pacific Telephone Company, investigating this device, connected automatic monitoring equipment to the appellant’s telephone line without his knowledge or consent. This device recorded all outgoing and incoming calls from December 20, 1965, to March 24, 1966.
  • A large number of direct dialling calls were made from the appellant’s number to information operators in various parts of the country, with some calls being unusually long. Tapes of the recorded conversations revealed gambling information conveyed over interstate telephone lines.

Prominent Arguments by the Counsels

  • The appellant’s counsel argued that the telephone company obtained evidence through illegal wiretapping, violating Fourth Amendment rights. He further contended that the telephone company’s non-consensual use of monitoring equipment violated 47 USC § 605.
  • The Respondent’s counsel argued that Section 605 allows communication systems to take reasonable measures for self-protection. A literal application of the section’s second part would be absurd. The counsel justified telephone company actions as a lawful investigation into illegal facility use, including long-distance charge circumvention.

Opinion of the Bench

  • The second part of Section 605, addressing unauthorised interception, was violated, as concluded by the district judge.
  • The telephone company’s agent, who intercepted and divulged information without the appellant’s knowledge, did not fall within the authorized categories.

Final Decision

  • The court reversed the judgment and passed the instructions for the District Court to dismiss the indictment.

Aditi Mangesh Sawant, an undergraduate student at NMIMS Kirit P Mehta School of Law, Mumbai, prepared this case summary during her internship with The Cyber Blog India in January/February 2024.