Note: This page covers information specific to Pennsylvania. For general information concerning the use of recording devices see the Recording Phone Calls, Conversations, Meetings and Hearings section of this guide.
Pennsylvania Wiretapping Law
Pennsylvania's wiretapping law is a "two-party consent" law. Pennsylvania makes it a crime to intercept or record a telephone call or conversation unless all parties to the conversation consent. See 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5703 (link is to the entire code, choose Title 18, Part II, Article F, Chapter 57, Subchapter B, and then the specific provision).
The law does not cover oral communications when the speakers do not have an "expectation that such communication is not subject to interception under circumstances justifying such expectation." See 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5702 (link is to the entire code, choose Title 18, Part II, Article F, Chapter 57, Subchapter A, and then the specific provision). Therefore, you may be able to record in-person conversations occurring in a public place without consent. However, you should always get the consent of all parties before recording any conversation that common sense tells you is private.
In addition to subjecting you to criminal prosecution, violating the Pennsylvania wiretapping law can expose you to a civil lawsuit for damages by an injured party.
Consult the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Can We Tape?: Pennsylvania for more information on Pennsylvania wiretapping law.
Pennsylvania Law on Recording Court Hearings and Public Meetings
Pennsylvania state courts generally prohibit the use of recording devices in the courtroom, both at the trial and appellate court level. However, individual judges may authorize recordings of non-jury civil trials, if both parties to the lawsuit consent. In that case, individual witnesses may object to recording and be excluded from coverage. Local courts may also establish additional rules.
Federal courts in Pennsylvania, at both the trial and appellate level, prohibit recording devices and cameras in the courtroom.
For information on your right of access to court proceedings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of this guide.
Recording devices are allowed in public meetings (i.e., meetings of a governmental body required to be open to the public by law) in Pennsylvania. Governmental bodies may adopt their own rules to maintain order at their meetings, but those rules may not include flat prohibitions on recording.
For information on your right of access to public meetings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of the guide and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Open Government Guide: Pennsylvania.