Marsico Will Soon Introduce Legislation to Stay One Step Ahead of Criminals
HARRISBURG— Majority Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Rep. Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin) is pleased to announce that he will soon introduce his legislation to update Pennsylvania’s Wiretap Act.
“Changes in the Wiretap Act are needed to keep one step ahead of criminal defendants that deal drugs, engage in organized crime, intimidate witnesses and victims, possess child pornography and support terrorist activity,” said Marsico. “Unfortunately, under current law criminals and criminal organizations have a decided advantage over law enforcement and use the fact that our laws fail to reflect current technology to their advantage.”
The act was updated last in 1998. Since then, technology has made historic advances, advances that law enforcement is not able to presently keep up with. In 1998, the use of digital telephony, caller ID, or voice mail was nonexistent. These ways to communicate are now commonplace. Marsico’s legislation would update the Wiretap Act to include the use of modern technology in order to track and bring to justice the most serious criminals.
“The goal of this legislation is not to permit the tracking of conversations or communications of law abiding individuals,” said Marsico. “Instead, the goal is to permit law enforcement to do what it does best – to investigate, identify, apprehend and prosecute criminals.”
A few of the changes Marsico is proposing would:
• Permit the use of law enforcement’s interception and recordings which are voluntarily
• Allow law enforcement officers to have access to properly obtained inmate
• Allow audio taping on school buses. Currently videotaping is permitted on school
buses; however, there is some debate regarding audio taping. This would settle the
debate and permit both audio and videotaping on school buses for student security
and discipline purposes.
• Allow information obtained through illegal civilian wiretap interceptions to be used but
only in criminal investigations and prosecutions. The creation of this new section
would not make it legal for civilians to tap each other. The prohibition and penalties for
illegal wiretapping by civilians would remain unchanged; however, law enforcement
would not be prohibited from using then in investigations.
• Permit a person who obtains knowledge of an oral communication by means
authorized by the laws of another state or federal government to disclose information
from that communication to law enforcement officers for use in its investigation or at
• Permit target-specific wiretaps when additional specificity, such as location or a
precise phone number, is lacking because of the criminals’ intention to thwart
interception by changing locations and phones. With the advent of prepaid cell
phones, this update to the existing law is imperative and mirrors the current federal
law. The wire would simply follow the suspect and not a particular location or phone
number. To obtain a Target Specific wiretap order, the court requires law
enforcement to prove why specificity is not feasible, who the target is and the stated
purpose. A court must then make a judicial finding that specification is not practical.
This is a much heavier burden than is required for an ordinary order under existing
• Properly extend the permissible range of certain tracking devices, as long as the
court issuing the orders approving their use has jurisdiction over the offense under
investigation and that the devices are monitored within the Commonwealth. This
change would recognize the reality that the world as we know it has grown smaller
and that criminals can easily take their nefarious activities across jurisdictional
“My legislation would update and supplement our existing Wiretap Act so that the legislation addresses the technology of today, and not technology as it existed in 1998 when we made the last legislative changes,” said Marsico. “Currently, it is the criminals who are taking advantage of this technology and not law enforcement. This legislation is necessary to allow law enforcement the ability to use the advances in technology to better protect our citizens.”
Once introduced, this legislation will be referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
State Representative Ron Marsico
105th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Contact: Autumn Southard