|Posted:||December 22, 2016 11:18 AM|
|From:||Representative Jerry Knowles|
|To:||All House members|
|Subject:||Cameras in Courtrooms|
|In the near future, I plan to re-introduce legislation to address a serious issue in the administration of justice.
Recently, a judge contacted me to tell me about a problem he has experienced in his courtroom whereby spectators have furtively used their cell phones to take photos of defendants or witnesses in court. In at least one incident, it resulted in some threatening Facebook postings afterwards. I have also heard of incidences of defendants or family members taking cell phone photos, in a threatening manner, of Children and Youth staffers in dependency and termination cases while in the hallway.
I was somewhat surprised to learn that existing law does not sufficiently address these situations. The offense of witness intimidation generally requires some act in addition to the act of recording. In other words, law enforcement generally cannot act until after the harm has been done. And violation of procedural rules that are commonly in place to prohibit the use of cell phones and recording devices generally do not carry a penalty.
Therefore, my bill amends 18 Pa.C.S. § 5102, (obstructing or impeding the administration of justice), to include “intentionally using a camera, recording device or any electronic device to record or photograph any person in any building housing a court of this Commonwealth in violation of any order or rule of court.” Again, it would only apply if the use was intentional, and only if it was done in violation of an express rule or order. The offense is a misdemeanor of the second degree.
In the 2015-2016 Session, this bill passed the house with a vote of 200-0. Unfortunately, there was no action in the Senate. Please join me in co-sponsoring this important legislation.
Previous co-sponsors: KNOWLES, BLOOM, BOBACK, THOMAS, DRISCOLL, TOPPER, STEPHENS, O'NEILL, LEWIS, D. COSTA, WATSON, TOOHIL, KAUFFMAN, RADER, SCHEMEL, McGINNIS, SACCONE, NEILSON, PICKETT, A. HARRIS, BAKER, MURT, COHEN, V. BROWN, GILLEN and DAVIS
Introduced as HB149