The Security Camera Laws in Pennsylvania

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Pennsylvania, home to the Liberty Bell and rich American history, is equally mindful of individual rights, particularly when it comes to property safety and the protection of privacy. With increasing concerns over security, it’s paramount for Pennsylvanians to understand the legal landscape surrounding the installation and use of security cameras. Let’s dive into the security camera laws in Pennsylvania.

1. What are the Security Camera Laws in Pennsylvania?

So, you’ve decided to amp up your home or business security in Pennsylvania with the latest security cameras? Smart move! But before you start installing those shiny new cameras, there are some legal lines you absolutely don’t want to cross. Let’s dig into the nitty-gritty.

Peeping Tom Laws

First up, Pennsylvania’s invasion of privacy laws, outlined in Title 18 § 7507.1 of the Pennsylvania Statutes. In plain English, it’s illegal to intentionally capture an image of a person in a place where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Think bathrooms, bedrooms, or changing rooms. If your camera accidentally captures your neighbor’s bathroom window, you could be in legal hot water. Always make sure your cameras point only to areas where people would not expect privacy, like a front yard or a business entrance.

Audio Recording: A Tricky Territory

Ah yes, audio. Many advanced security cameras come with a built-in microphone, but beware. Pennsylvania is a two-party consent state when it comes to audio recording, as per Title 18 § 5703. This means that you can’t record a conversation unless both parties have given explicit consent. So, if your camera picks up a conversation between two unaware people, you’re stepping into a legal quagmire.

Business Considerations

Running a business? Then you have another layer of considerations. According to federal laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), your security camera installations must not obstruct pathways, entrances, or exits for people with disabilities.

Posting Notifications

While it’s not a strict requirement in Pennsylvania to post a notice alerting folks about your security cameras, it’s a good practice. Why? It can act as a deterrent for would-be intruders and make it easier to use the footage as evidence in court if needed.

Staying on the Safe Side

The last thing you want is your security measures landing you in a court case. To stay on the safe side:

  1. Avoid pointing your cameras into other people’s private spaces.
  2. Get verbal or written consent before recording audio, especially in a business setting.
  3. Check federal guidelines if your business must be ADA-compliant.
  4. When in doubt, consult a legal expert.

security camera laws in Pennsylvania

2. Other Pennsylvania Laws Related to Security Cameras

Here’s a quick list of additional laws in Pennsylvania that might have an impact on security camera usage:

  • Wiretap Act (Title 18 § 5703): This law primarily deals with electronic surveillance. As mentioned before, Pennsylvania is a two-party consent state. This means if your security camera captures audio, both parties in the conversation must be aware of and consent to the recording. If not, you could be in violation of this statute.
  • Criminal Trespass (Title 18 § 3503): This isn’t directly related to security cameras, but it’s relevant if you’re placing cameras on someone else’s property or if they extend beyond your property boundaries. Unauthorized placement could be deemed trespassing.
  • Harassment (Title 18 § 2709): If someone believes you’re using security cameras to harass or stalk them, it can be considered a violation. Ensure your cameras are strictly for security purposes and are not positioned in a way that could be perceived as invasive or menacing.

3. Penalties for Breaking the Security Camera Laws in Pennsylvania

Non-compliance with Pennsylvania’s recording laws can lead to significant legal consequences. As such, residents and business owners should be thoroughly informed about Pennsylvania’s security camera regulations to steer clear of inadvertent violations.

  • Pennsylvania’s Invasion of Privacy (Title 18 § 7507.1): A violation of this statute is graded as a third-degree misdemeanor. This can lead to penalties such as up to 1 year in jail, fines, probation, or other court-imposed sanctions.
  • Two-party Consent & Wiretap Act (Title 18 § 5703): Violation of this act is a felony of the third degree. This means those found guilty can face severe penalties, including imprisonment for up to 7 years, substantial fines, or both.
  • Criminal Trespass (Title 18 § 3503): Depending on the circumstances, this can range from a third-degree felony to a third-degree misdemeanor. Penalties could involve imprisonment, with the duration varying based on the degree of the violation (from up to 7 years for a third-degree felony to up to 1 year for a third-degree misdemeanor), fines, or both.
  • Harassment (Title 18 § 2709): Harassment is typically graded as a summary offense in Pennsylvania, but depending on the circumstances, it can also be graded as a third-degree misdemeanor. For summary offenses, penalties might include up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $300. For third-degree misdemeanors, penalties might include up to 1 year in jail and a more substantial fine.

When setting up security cameras, it’s crucial to be aware of these penalties to ensure compliance with state laws and avoid legal ramifications. Always consider consulting with a legal professional for a comprehensive understanding and guidance on these matters.

install bullet security camera

4. Can I Install a Security Camera in My Pennsylvania Home?

Of course! Setting up security cameras in your home is a great way to keep an extra eye on things and enhance your peace of mind. But before you get started, here are some key points to note:

Purpose Matters

You’re good to go as long as you’re using your security footage for legitimate purposes – like security (obviously!) and not for anything sneaky or illicit. That footage of your pet doing something cute? Perfectly fine. But using footage for unsavory reasons? That’s a big no-no.

The Sound of Consent

Planning on having a camera that captures audio? Remember the golden rule in Pennsylvania: two-party consent. Ensure that anyone being recorded is aware and has given their consent. You wouldn’t want that delightful chat about weekend plans to land you in a legal bind!

Neighbors and Boundaries

Residing in an apartment, condo, or any shared living space? Dive into your lease or housing agreements. There might be clauses about security camera placements. And always, always, be courteous. Check your camera angles to ensure you’re not getting a live feed from your neighbor’s living room. Respect goes a long way!

5. Can I Install a Security Camera in My Pennsylvania Business?

Definitely! Security cameras can be a game-changer for businesses, both big and small. But just like in your home, there are guidelines to follow:

Transparency is Key

Whether it’s your employees or your lovely customers, no one likes unexpected surprises. Inform everyone about your surveillance. It’s not just courteous; it’s also a proactive step to avoid potential misunderstandings.

Signs Everywhere!:

  • Where: Entrances, checkout counters, staff rooms – anywhere visible.
  • Why: A visible sign can act as a deterrent for anyone with mischief in mind.
  • What: Signs should clearly state something along the lines of, “For your safety and ours, these premises are under surveillance.”

Location, Location, Location:

  • Do: Place cameras in open areas like sales floors, entrances, or parking lots.
  • Don’t: Film areas that are off-limits to the public or places where people expect privacy – like restrooms or changing rooms. It’s not just about legality; it’s about maintaining trust.

In essence, while security cameras can be a boon for both homeowners and business owners in Pennsylvania, using them responsibly ensures that you’re protected, both from potential threats and from potential legal issues.

home security systems easy to install

6. How to File a Complaint in Pennsylvania

Feeling uneasy because you think someone’s playing fast and loose with Pennsylvania’s security camera laws? Let’s get you equipped with the right knowledge to ensure your concerns are addressed properly.

Gather Your Evidence:

Before you even make a phone call or step into a police station, gather all your evidence. Think of it like setting the stage:

  • Descriptions: Jot down details about where the camera is located, its angle, and why you believe it’s infringing on privacy or any other laws.
  • Photos or Videos: A picture is worth a thousand words. Capture clear images of the security camera in question. If you can safely get a shot that shows its position in relation to your property, even better.
  • Dates and Times: These can be essential. Make a note of when you first noticed the potential violation and any subsequent incidents.

Reach Out to Local Law Enforcement:

Once you have everything in order:

  • Contact: Your local police department or sheriff’s office is where you’ll want to start. Give them a brief overview of your concerns.
  • Details Matter: Provide them with the evidence you’ve gathered. The more detailed and organized you are, the easier it is for them to understand and act on your complaint.

Wait, but Stay Informed:

After you’ve lodged your complaint, local authorities will start their assessment.

  • Stay Proactive: It might take some time, but don’t hesitate to follow up if you feel like your case hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves.
  • Note: While legal action might not be instantaneous, your complaint acts as a record. This alone can deter future violations or help build a case if infractions continue.

Considering Legal Action?:

If you’re thinking of taking the matter to court:

  • Consult an Attorney: Specifically, one well-versed in Pennsylvania’s security camera regulations. They’ll be your navigator, helping you understand your rights, the potential outcomes, and the best course of action.
  • Understand the Process: Your attorney will guide you, but it’s good to familiarize yourself with Pennsylvania’s legal process for these matters.


Security cameras can bolster the safety of Pennsylvania homes and businesses, but one must be well-versed in state-specific laws to avoid unintentional violations. Always prioritize the privacy of others and act in accordance with state regulations.

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Do I need a permit for security cameras in my Pennsylvania business?

No, you do not need a specific permit to install security cameras in your Pennsylvania business. However, you should ensure the cameras comply with privacy laws and regulations, and it’s advisable to inform employees and patrons of their presence.

Can you video-record someone without their consent in Pennsylvania?

Yes, you can video-record someone without their consent in Pennsylvania, as long as it’s done in a place where there’s no reasonable expectation of privacy. However, when it comes to audio recording, Pennsylvania is a two-party consent state, meaning you need the consent of all parties involved in a conversation before recording audio.

Are hidden cameras illegal in Pennsylvania?

Hidden cameras themselves are not inherently illegal in Pennsylvania. However, using them in areas where individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy, like bathrooms or changing rooms, without consent would be a violation of privacy laws. Additionally, recording audio without the consent of all parties is illegal.

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