Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v Proetto

__Name:_Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v Proetto_

Cite:771 A.2d 823, Pa. Super., 2001.

URL's to Opinion:

Lexis: ((lex: test2))

  • __Court:_Superior Court of Pennsylvania_

  • __Procedural Posture: On appeal to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania following appellant's conviction in the court of common pleas, Bucks County, criminal division, no. 5462-99._

  • Overview: Defendant/Appellant, a police officer, was charged with criminal solicitation,obscene and other sexual materials or performances, and corruption of minors, after engaging in chat room conversations with a minor female, sending her a nude picture of himself, and attempting to get her to send nude pictures of videos of herself back to him. Defendant appealled, questioning among other things, the constitutionality of failing to protect communications over the internet by way of telephone lines, and asserting a violation of the Pennsylvania Wiretap Act by intercepting private chat room communications, without prior authorization or traditional avenues of seizure, such as warrant.

  • __Background and Description: Defendant, who was attempting to solicit sex and nude pictures from a minor 15 y/o female, was arrested after the female saved all of their internet chat room conversations and pictures sent over the internet, and turned them over to a local police official. When minor female alerted the police that the defendant was online again, the police officer posed online as a fifteen year old female, and again defendant attempted to engage in sexual conversations with a minor, who was actually the police. Defendant was subsequently arrested and convicted, but raised multiple issues as to whether the evidence of the electronically submitted communications should have been suppressed, under the Pennsylvania Wirettap Act and the Constitution. The trial court denied the motions in a pre-trial hearing, and the Superior Court addressed on appeal, to determine whether the record could support the factual findings and the legitimacy of the inferences and legal conclusions drawn from those findings.

  • Holding and Analysis: Appellate Court determined that the communications were not "intercepted", when minor sent communications to the police department, because under the literal meaning of intercept, the collection must be simultaneous with the transmission. Under the facts of this case, the police department did not intercept transmissions between the defendant and the minor. The minor simply supplied those communications to the police department at a later time. Furthermore, the communications between the minor and the defendant showed mutual consent under the Act, particularly because over the internet, the typing and sending over the internet is inherently a recording, unlike a telephone conversation where one person would be sitting with a recorder on the other line.Court analogized sending information over the internet, to leaving a message on the answering machine. Furthermore, Appellant had limited to no reasonable expectation of privacy, so there was no violation of Constitutional Rights. As to the conversation between defendant and undercover police officer, there was no illegal intercept, because they were both first-hand parties to the conversation. There was no eavesdropping or wiretapping. The fact that the defendant was talking to someone else than he thought he was, was irrelevant. The Wiretapping Act was not intended to prevent/stop someone from misrepresenting their identity, thus the motion to suppress was rightfully denied, and again their was no reasonable expectation of privacy in communications in an internet chatroom, so no constitutional violation.



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