Session: 2023-2024

ACLU-PA Position: Opposes

The ACLU-PA strenuously opposed HB 1278 as filed. But before the bill was considered in committee, the ACLU-PA engaged in good faith negotiations with the bill sponsor, House Judiciary committee members and staff, and several stakeholder groups, including the Public Defender Association of Pennsylvania, to craft language that moved us neutral on the bill (reflected in prior printer's number 2037).

However, Senate amendments gutted all those hard-fought changes, and as a result, the ACLU-PA again opposes HB 1278.

HB 1278 (PN 2303) would amend Pennsylvania's Wiretap Act to exempt parole agents from restrictions on recording oral communications. This would permit parole agents to wear body cameras, including when meeting with people they are supervising.

It is not clear what problem this legislation is attempting to solve. The use of body-worn cameras by community supervision agents (probation or parole) is nearly non-existent in the rest of the country. Unlike police officers, who routinely interact with members of the general public, parole agents are not law enforcement officers. Parole agents supervise people on parole. The supervisory relationship between parole agents and their clients are, by definition, interpersonal, and more often than not, occur in private settings—treatment centers, home visits, and work visits. As such, the use of body cameras in those settings not only raises significant privacy concerns when recording confidential or personal health conversations, but it has very serious implications for third parties who may be recorded, but who retain an expectation of privacy and protection against unlawful searches because they are not under criminal supervision.

HB 1278 (PN 2303) reinstates several problematic provisions‚ two in particular:

  1. The broad permission it grants parole agents to intercept audio and visual communications, including of third parties who are not under supervision; and
  2. The failure to limit how or when footage may be shared with law enforcement agencies.

Negotiated changes to HB 1278 placed some basic guardrails on an otherwise fraught and almost entirely untested idea. Unfortunately, Senate Judiciary committee leadership dismantled those guardrails, thereby re-inviting the serious privacy, surveillance, and Fourth Amendment concerns originally raised by this bill.

Governor Shapiro signed HB 1278 into law on December 14, 2023 as Act 53 of 2023.


Representative Chris Pielli





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