Are you thinking about installing a video surveillance system in Pennsylvania? Then, take a few minutes to review the security camera laws in Pennsylvania. The “Keystone State,” known for its industries and amazing cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, allows residents to use video surveillance.
In the United States, residential and commercial security video surveillance laws and regulations vary by state. Hence, it’s worth reviewing the specifics in your state before installing a video surveillance system.
In this article, we will review some of the most frequently asked questions regarding security camera laws in Pennsylvania.
Security & Surveillance Camera Laws in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, security camera laws typically permit homeowners and businesses to employ surveillance cameras for legitimate purposes, such as reasonable suspicion or property protection. Such uses are generally not considered intrusive to individuals’ privacy and are of reasonable expectation of privacy.
However, if security cameras are deployed in areas where individuals reasonably expect privacy, such as bathrooms or changing rooms, their use would be deemed an invasion of privacy.
Government entities, including law enforcement agencies, may face restrictions on their utilization of security cameras and other surveillance technologies. The Fourth Amendment safeguards citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures.
Additionally, government agencies must meet specific criteria, including the reasonableness test, the expectation of privacy test, and the balancing test, which can all influence how they employ security cameras.
Are Security Cameras Legal in Pennsylvania?
Video surveillance is legal in Pennsylvania. However, there are specific guidelines and regulations that users must be aware of to avoid legal challenges. When installing security cameras, homeowners and property managers should consider the following:
- The Pennsylvania Wiretap Law makes it illegal to record any electronically transmitted conversation.
- Most legal trouble can be avoided by avoiding audio recordings and posting proper signage.
- Under Pennsylvania law, it is a felony to record an oral or telephone communication without the consent of all parties. Offenders are also subject to civil liability as per PA Cons Stat § 5703, § 5704 (definition & penalty), § 5725, § 5747 (civil damages)
Security Camera Regulations in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania has some of the harshest security camera regulations in the country. Even law enforcement organizations face restrictions regarding video surveillance in numerous cases without previous court clearance or warrant.
Failure to comply with Pennsylvania’s wiretap statute is a third-degree crime resulting in prison time. Pennsylvania is a two-party consent state, meaning you must notify everyone and ask for consent from persons involved when recording audio-video clips. Otherwise, you are risking legal challenges, bad publicity, or worse.
Is Pennsylvania a One-Party Consent State Recording?
Pennsylvania is not a one-party state. Instead, Pennsylvania is one of only twelve that enforces the “two-party consent” law under Federal Law.
It means that when operating video surveillance, mainly if audio recordings are being conducted, both parties to a private conversation need to be aware of and consent to the recording of that conversation.
Security Cameras on Private Property in Philadelphia
Security cameras are used for various purposes, including traffic surveillance and crime prevention. In addition, cities are adding surveillance cameras into their security system, thanks to higher resolutions, remote access to live video streams, and technology like facial recognition.
For example, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has 28,064 cameras for a population of 1,584,064 people, or 17.72 cameras per 1,000 persons, as of 2022.
Security Cameras Monitoring Transportation in Philly
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) has over 28,000 surveillance cameras monitoring bus, rapid transit, commuter rail, light rail, and electric trolleybus services for nearly 4 million people in five counties in and around Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Can Tenants Install Security Cameras in PA?
Tenants in Pennsylvania are generally permitted to install cameras as long as they do not cause any damage, such as suffering or emotional distress.
In addition, Pennsylvania video surveillance laws and regulations allow tenants to utilize their apartment’s exterior and general areas as long as they are not violating their neighbor’s privacy or damaging property.
Apartment Building Security Cameras
In most circumstances in Pennsylvania, landlords can install a video surveillance system to monitor entrances and parking lots to increase the property’s overall security.
What are Pennsylvania’s Workplace Video Surveillance Laws?
In Pennsylvania, it is legal for employers to install video cameras in the workplace, provided that the surveillance is not in spaces where employees have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Most workplace video camera restrictions apply to private areas such as restrooms, break rooms, and other places where employees reasonably expect privacy.
Are Hidden Cameras Legal in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania has no law that makes it a criminal offense to place a hidden video surveillance camera on private property.
However, hidden cameras are complicated, and the same regulations that apply to residential cameras are different for commercial or public spaces.
Oral or Telephone Communication Security Cameras
Pennsylvania’s Wiretap Law makes it illegal to record private conversations without all parties’ consent.
In general, regardless of the setting, since recording audio without the permission of the person being recorded is a criminal offense, it is best to avoid audio recordings at all times.
Video Surveillance by Law Enforcement in Certain Situations: No Court Approval Required
It’s important to understand that there are situations where law enforcement can conduct video surveillance without needing court approval.
For example, in Pennsylvania, law enforcement can use video surveillance in cases involving hostages or when a fugitive has taken refuge in a residential or commercial building.
However, in all other instances, if a police officer utilizes a video camera as part of an investigation, the recorded video footage cannot be presented as evidence in court unless it directly supports the case or is related to a prosecution that concerns harm inflicted upon the investigating or law enforcement officer.
In Pennsylvania, surveillance cameras are increasingly used to monitor residential and commercial properties. Whether you want to use a camera to monitor your business or install integrated security systems to protect your property, there are rules you should be aware of before putting them in place.
After familiarizing yourself with Pennsylvania’s security camera guidelines and Federal Law, you may set up your enterprise security camera system.
It may be challenging depending on the size of your system and the depth of your particular requirements.
Hiring a professional security camera installer is a better option because it ensures all video recording systems are compliant and configured for the best performance.