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Apr 152013

Last week, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted on House Bill 90. This is one of the bills which have been submitted this session as a result of the multiple recommendations of the Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection.

The bill would give prosecuting offices the ability to use special administrative subpoenas to obtain specific computer information for those suspected of committing sexual exploitation or sexual abuse of children. Child pornography is one of the targets of this bill.

House Bill 90 would add a section to the law dealing with disclosure of electronic information. HB 90 would add section 18 Pa. C.S. 5743.1, which would allow law enforcement, i.e., a state attorney or local prosecutor, to obtain electronic and identifying information in investigations of child sex abuse or child pornography. Click to view the suggested amendments to the electronic communications disclosure and investigation law. As of today, the bill was sent to the Judiciary Committee for review.

If passed, this law will facilitate the investigation of child exploitation and subsequently prevent child sex abuse. Those who become child molesters often initiate their perversions via child pornography. Combating child pornography is a initial first step in finding and eventually prosecuting those who would become child abusers.

This law is likely to garner strong disapproval from constitutional rights advocates and criminal defense lawyers. The proposed law makes no mention of the need for law enforcement to have probable cause prior to issuing a subpoena. In essence, the new law would bypass the ordinary constitutional protection which is currently required prior to obtaining such information – judicial review by way of a court order or search warrant.  It could be argued that the law, as written, provides the government with blanket access to private, identifying information.

It will be interesting to see what happens with this bill. Stay tuned.

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 Posted by on April 15, 2013 Criminal Justice System