Comprehensive Overview (state-by-state) of the Legal Impact of wiretapping:

Pennsylvania

Current status

Pennsylvania has both interception and an invasion of privacy statutes. The interception of communication law addresses wire, electronic and oral communications and requires all party consent to record or interception of private communications.

The invasion of privacy law addresses the recording of other persons without their consent while in a state of nudity or exposing their private parts, in places where they would expect to have privacy.

Impact of law

Pennsylvania holds unlawful to intercept a communication, whether wire, electronic or oral, without the consent of all parties engaged in the conversation. As the law defines electronic communications as “any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data or intelligence of any nature,” consent from all parties is also required to intercept text messages, email or chat content and other such online communications.

The invasion of privacy statute makes it a misdemeanor to record in any way a person in a state of nudity of partial nudity, in a place where the person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. The law does not criminalize the use of recording devices to record other persons in areas in which there is no reasonable expectation of privacy. It is thus legal to record other persons in public places.

References to Physical TSCM

The law specifically mentions “any device or apparatus, including, but not limited to, an induction coil or a telecommunication identification interception device, that can be used to intercept a wire, electronic or oral communication”. We believe this phrase includes all available means of technical surveillance.

References to Cyber TSCM

Although not specifically mentioned, cyber means of interception are subject of the law as devices that can be used to intercept electronic communications.

Criminal implications

Violations of the interception statute are felonies of the third degree, while invasion of privacy is a misdemeanor of the second degree if there is more than one violation. Otherwise, a violation of this section is a misdemeanor of the third degree.

Civil implications

Anyone whose wire, electronic or oral communication has been recorded or disclosed in violation of the law can bring a civil suit to recover actual damages, computed as $100 a day for each day of violation, or a minimum amount of $1,000, and additional punitive damages, attorney’s fees and court costs.

Code excerpts

18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. 5703[1]. Interception, disclosure or use of wire, electronic or oral communications.

Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, a person is guilty of a felony of the third degree if he:

(1) intentionally intercepts, endeavors to intercept, or procures any other person to intercept or endeavor to intercept any wire, electronic or oral communication;

(2) intentionally discloses or endeavors to disclose to any other person the contents of any wire, electronic or oral communication, or evidence derived therefrom, knowing or having reason to know that the information was obtained through the interception of a wire, electronic or oral communication; or

(3) intentionally uses or endeavors to use the contents of any wire, electronic or oral communication, or evidence derived therefrom, knowing or having reason to know, that the information was obtained through the interception of a wire, electronic or oral communication.

18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. 5704[2]. Exceptions to prohibition of interception and disclosure of communications.

It shall not be unlawful and no prior court approval shall be required under this chapter for:

(4) A person, to intercept a wire, electronic or oral communication, where all parties to the communication have given prior consent to such interception.

(17) Any victim, witness or private detective licensed under the act of August 21, 1953 (P.L.1273, No.361), known as The Private Detective Act of 1953, to intercept the contents of any wire, electronic or oral communication, if that person is under a reasonable suspicion that the intercepted party is committing, about to commit or has committed a crime of violence and there is reason to believe that evidence of the crime of violence may be obtained from the interception.

18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. 5702[3]. Definitions.

As used in this chapter:

“Intercept.” Aural or other acquisition of the contents of any wire, electronic or oral communication through the use of any electronic, mechanical or other device.

“Electronic, mechanical or other device.”Any device or apparatus, including, but not limited to, an induction coil or a telecommunication identification interception device, that can be used to intercept a wire, electronic or oral communication […]

“Oral communication.” Any oral communication uttered by a person possessing an expectation that such communication is not subject to interception under circumstances justifying such expectation. The term does not include any electronic communication.

18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. 5725[4]

(a) Cause of action.–Any person whose wire, electronic or oral communication is intercepted, disclosed or used in violation of this chapter shall have a civil cause of action against any person who intercepts, discloses or uses or procures any other person to intercept, disclose or use, such communication; and shall be entitled to recover from any such person:

(1) Actual damages, but not less than liquidated damages computed at the rate of $100 a day for each day of violation, or $1,000, whichever is higher.

(2) Punitive damages.

(3) A reasonable attorney’s fee and other litigation costs reasonably incurred.

18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. 7507.1[5]. Invasion of privacy.

(a) Offense defined.-Except as set forth in subsection (d), a person commits the offense of invasion of privacy if he, for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of any person, knowingly does any of the following:

(1) Views, photographs, videotapes, electronically depicts, films or otherwise records another person without that person’s knowledge and consent while that person is in a state of full or partial nudity and is in a place where that person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

(2) Photographs, videotapes, electronically depicts, films or otherwise records or personally views the intimate parts, whether or not covered by clothing, of another person without that person’s knowledge and consent and which intimate parts that person does not intend to be visible by normal public observation.

(3) Transfers or transmits an image obtained in violation of paragraph (1) or (2) by live or recorded telephone message, electronic mail or the Internet or by any other transfer of the medium on which the image is stored.

(b) Grading.–Invasion of privacy is a misdemeanor of the second degree if there is more than one violation. Otherwise, a violation of this section is a misdemeanor of the third degree.

 

 

[1] Source: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/LI/consCheck.cfm?txtType=HTM&ttl=18&div=0&chpt=57&sctn=3&subsctn=0

[2] Source: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/LI/consCheck.cfm?txtType=HTM&ttl=18&div=0&chpt=57&sctn=4&subsctn=0

[3] Source: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/LI/consCheck.cfm?txtType=HTM&ttl=18&div=0&chpt=57&sctn=2&subsctn=0

[4] Source: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/LI/consCheck.cfm?txtType=HTM&ttl=18&div=0&chpt=57&sctn=25&subsctn=0

[5] Source: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/LI/consCheck.cfm?txtType=HTM&ttl=18&div=0&chpt=75&sctn=7&subsctn=1