Making use of security cameras to monitor residential and commercial properties has become prevalent in the state of Pennsylvania. Howbeit, whether you intend to use a security camera to monitor your business or looking to inculcate audio recording into the security of your premises, note there are state laws you are expected to know about before carrying out such surveillance.
According to a recent report, Pennsylvania is ranked as the 15th safest state and it witnesses less overall crime than most States in the US. However, note that Pennsylvania has some of the toughest video surveillance laws in the United States. In fact, PA enforces some of the harshest penalties in the United States for violating security camera laws.
In the state of Pennsylvania, even law enforcement agencies are not permitted to leverage video surveillance without prior court approval. Coupled with limiting surveillance, Pennsylvania state law enforces harsh penalties for violating surveillance laws.
For instance, intercepting an oral communication via a video camera is considered a third-degree felony punishable by time in prison. Truth be told, both residential and commercial surveillance can go a long way in improving safety.
It can help you protect your property or even serve as evidence should an incident occur. However, unless you comply with Pennsylvania wiretapping and video surveillance laws, you may be going against laws in the state and also be liable to fines and even jail time.
10 Most Important Pennsylvania Home Security Camera Laws You Must Know
Indeed, there are very important laws that govern the use of security cameras in Pennslyvania, and they include;
1. Pennsylvania recording law notes that it is a two-party consent state
Therefore, it is a criminal offense to use any device to record communications, whether they are wire, oral or electronic, as long as it is without the consent of everyone taking part in the conversation.
Generally, this law is used to deter surveillance by a third party. Federal law explicitly allows one party to videotape the other without his or her knowledge. However, the state of Pennsylvania mandates that all parties must consent to video surveillance.
2. In the State of Pennsylvania, it is an offense of invasion of privacy
For sexual gratification purposes to view, photograph, videotape, film, or in any form record another person who is in a state of full or partial nudity while that person is in a place where a reasonable level of privacy is expected, without that person’s knowledge and consent.
3. Note that pointing your camera toward the road is permitted
In the state of Pennsylvania especially since it is a public area where people are not expected to have a reasonable expectation of privacy. In recent times, several city police departments in the state are requesting that citizens point their security cameras toward public roads to help police in case an incident occurs.
4. Photographing, videotaping, electronically depicting, filming, or otherwise recording or personally viewing the intimate parts of another person is considered an invasion of privacy for sexual gratification in the state of Pennsylvania, regardless of whether this person is covered by clothing or not, as long as it is without that person’s consent and knowledge when that person does not have intentions for such intimate parts to be visible by normal public observation.
5. In Pennsylvania, you can be found guilty of intrusion upon seclusion if your security camera in any way invades the private space of another to take photos of private behavior.
Note that the photographs or recordings can even be deemed to have caused suffering, shame, or humiliation. For instance, placing cameras or microphones in a live-in nanny’s bedroom without their knowledge or consent. Setting up cameras in these places violates the federal Anti-Voyeurism Law, which may result in legal consequences.
6. It is illegal to save or share images obtained in violation of the State of Pennsylvania privacy laws by life or recorded telephone message, electronic mail, Internet, or by any other transfer of the medium on which the image is stored.
For instance, using your security camera to record a person in a changing room is illegal especially since such a room is a place where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy and people may be in a state of full or partial nudity when inside.
7. Homeowners are mandated to obtain written approval from a public safety office before installing certain cameras and auto-dialing devices, such as alarm systems that send alerts to the police or third-party monitoring centers.
For instance, if the alarm company you use has a monitoring center that has unrestricted access to police dispatch, you will have to first obtain written approval from your local police department or the state police before you can install or use it.
8. The state of Pennsylvania only allows up to three false alarms within 12 months. Note that if you receive more than three false alarms within a year, you are liable to be fined up to $300 and your written approval can be withdrawn.
Therefore, when deciding on a professionally monitored alarm company, it is recommended you extensively research their “Cancelling False Alarms” clause. Take your time or verify that they offer an easy way to cancel alarms. In addition, find and go through customer reviews about the matter.
9. Note that no court approval is required for video surveillance by law enforcement in certain situations. For instance, the State of Pennsylvania permits a law enforcement agency to make use of video surveillance in a situation involving hostages or a fugitive who has barricaded himself inside a residential or commercial building.
But aside from that, if a policeman uses a video camera as part of an investigation, that video footage will be inadmissible in court unless it provides explicit evidence or relates to a prosecution “involving harm done to the investigative or law enforcement officer”.
10. In the State of Pennsylvania, Invasion of privacy is a misdemeanor of the third degree, and this crime is punishable by imprisonment not exceeding 90 days or a fine ranging from $250 to $5000, or both. Howbeit, if the perpetrator has more than one violation, the offense is upgraded to a misdemeanor of the second degree and is more or less punishable by imprisonment not exceeding 2 years or a fine ranging from $500 to $5000, or both.
Aside from installing an alarm system, putting up a security camera is a viable way of boosting the security of your home.
However, just as with the installation and use of alarm systems, don’t forget that some laws govern the use of security cameras. Just as was noted above, the state of Pennsylvania enforces some of the harshest penalties for violating security camera laws.