Recording court related proceedings in PA could land you in jail

In Commonwealth v. Patrick Cline, 2017 Pa. Super 417, the Pennsylvania Superior Court upheld the criminal conviction of a man who recorded a custody conference in the Lehigh County Courthouse.  He was convicted of violating the Pennsylvania Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Control Act and given a sentence of incarceration for 11 1/2 to 23 months.

The defendant appealed on the grounds that, 1. He did not know that his act was illegal, 2. He was denied due process since information from the custody conference was received and utilized by the judge in a subsequent custody trial, and that, 3.  He was denied due process because court proceedings are supposed to be public and not held in secret.

The Court denied his appeal on the first issue, because of the general principle  (also stated in the Pennsylvania Criminal Code at 18 Pa.C.S. 304) that ignorance of mistake of law is no defense. However, the Court did not make any substantive ruling on the other two issues, holding that the defendant had waived those grounds by not raising them before the trial court.  Accordingly, it is possible that those due process arguments may still be viable if properly raised in the correct procedural context.

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