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Body camera bill allows recording in homes

On Behalf of | Jun 5, 2017 | Criminal Defense

A bill recently passed by the Pennsylvania Senate would change the laws regarding body cameras worn by law enforcement. According to Gizmodo, the bill was introduced by Senator Stewart Greenleaf and will change the state’s Wiretap Act so that officers are allowed to record in the home of residents and do so without informing the people who are being filmed. Under the current law, it is illegal in most situations for officers to record conversations that occur in a private residence, and typically both parties need to be aware that they are being recorded. This bill would exempt body camera recordings from the law.

The proposed bill would also change the state’s “Right to Know” Act, which pertains to public records and how citizens are able to obtain public information. If the bill were to become law, citizens would only have 20 days to file a request for footage, and they would need to state their “connection to the footage” in addition to paying a $125 filing fee.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that a similar measure did not pass the House last year. There is no rule in the bill governing when a camera is to be turned on or how long footage is supposed to be stored before it is allowed to be destroyed.

The bill is supported by law enforcement across the state, but the American Civil Liberties Union opposes the legislation, warning that it could make body camera footage almost impossible for the public to access. In Pennsylvania, body cameras are not worn by all officers across the state–in fact, many departments do not use them at all.