PDAA Support for HB 149

March 22, 2018

Dear Senate Judiciary Committee Member:

I am writing to express the strong support of the PDAA for HB 149, which will be before you today. This is important legislation designed to reduce instances of witness intimidation.

You are all aware of the problems associated with and prevalence of witness intimidation. One form of intimidation we have seen is the taking of pictures or videos of witnesses walking in or out of courtrooms and court buildings as well as on the witness stand. The intimidation occurs when the pictures or videos are posted online or on some form of social media. Sometimes, literally posting an image is all it takes to scare the witness or victim from testifying.
This situation does tremendous damage to our justice system and is incredibly unfair to the brave victims and other witnesses who want to testify.
HB 149 is quite simple: it makes it a second degree misdemeanor to use or operate a recording device to record or transmit a photograph, video, motion picture or audio of a proceeding or person within a hearing room, courtroom or the environs of any such room without the approval of the court or presiding judge or except as provided by court rule.

These exceptions ensure appropriate application of the crime and will also ensure that recording devices may be used in appropriate circumstances.
It is worth noting that Rule 112 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure already requires courts to ban such recordings and uses the same terms that are in the bill, including the use of the word “environs.” The rule, however, contains no penalties. As a result, it has proven, unfortunately, to be somewhat feckless in many circumstances.

HB 149 will remedy the problem and go a long way toward reducing the number of witnesses and victims who are subject to intimidation.


John T. Adams