Marsico Legislation to Stay One Step Ahead of Criminals to be Signed by the Governor
HARRISBURG— Majority Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Rep. Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin) is pleased to announce that his legislation to update Pennsylvania’s Wiretap Act saw final passage today and now awaits the governor’s approval.
“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 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 soon to become law would:
• Permit a law enforcement officer to pose as an intended recipient of a
communication where he has legally come into possession of a criminal’s cell
phone and the attorney general or district attorney determines the
communication involves suspected criminal activity and approves.
• Allow law enforcement officers to have access to properly obtained inmate
• Allow recordings by victims and witnesses where there is reason to believe the
person recorded is involved in a crime of violence or felony of the first degree. If
recorded under these circumstances, law enforcement and prosecutors would
be permitted to use the recordings in investigations and trials.
• This would also permit a disclosure of a communication that is exculpatory in an
open or closed case.
• 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 trial, if the interception was approved by a court on a finding of
• Permit law enforcement to obtain a court order for 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. Law
enforcement would be required to prove to the court, 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 law.
• 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
• Prohibit anyone from knowingly possessing a device that can be used to capture
serial numbers and other unique indentifying information from a cell phone. Such
devices allow criminals to clone cell phones using information intercepted from a
• Permits SWAT teams to intercept a communication from a person holding a
hostage or who has barricaded himself and may resist with the use of weapons
or is threatening harm to himself or others.
“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.”
House Bill 2400 is awaiting the governor’s signature.
State Representative Ron Marsico
105th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Contact: Autumn Southard