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House of Representatives
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: October 20, 2015 08:30 AM
From: Representative Jerry Knowles
To: All House members
Subject: Cameras in Courtrooms
As everyone knows, cell phones and other kinds of devices have made it increasingly easy to record audio, video, and take photographs. According to many judges and prosecutors across the Commonwealth, the discreet use of these devices has become a weapon for witness intimidation. Frequently, a recording of a witness is posted on a website or a photo of them is hung on a telephone pole in a neighborhood. This not only causes witnesses to refuse to cooperate, but puts them in danger.

Though the Rules of Criminal and Civil Procedure include provisions about recording in a courtroom, a person who violates it is subject only to contempt of court. Unfortunately, it is difficult to tie a picture, or other recording used to intimidate a witness or party, to the person who took it. There is no criminal statute to address the root of the problem.

I plan to introduce legislation that would prohibit the use of a device to record video, audio, or take photographs in a courtroom or hearing room, or in the entrances of these facilities, without the permission of the presiding officer, or as permitted by the rules of court. Any offense would be graded as a Misdemeanor of the Second Degree, with a potential penalty of 2 years and a $5,000 fine.

Please consider joining me in sponsoring this legislation.

Introduced as HB1682