Pennsylvania Supreme Court Decides Right-to-Know Case in Favor of Centre County Resident
Pennsylvania Supreme Court Decides Right-to-Know Case in Favor of Centre County Resident allowing access to police dashcam video. On June 20, 2017, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a decision allowing public access to police “dash cam” videos, unless the police can prove that such videos include investigative material. Centre County resident Michelle Grove, represented by attorney Helen Stolinas of the Mazza Law Group in State College, had requested “dash cam” videos depicting the State Police response to a motor vehicle accident that a friend had been involved in.
The Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) denied Grove’s request, and Grove appealed that decision to the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records, which granted the request. PSP thereafter appealed to the Commonwealth Court, which generally affirmed her right to obtain the records. Finally, PSP appealed to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
The State Police argued that such video recordings should always be deemed exempt because they relate to a criminal investigation, which creates an exemption under the Right to Know Law. However, the court rejected this argument and held that each request must be decided on a case-by-case basis, and the burden of establishing that the video includes exempt information is on the State Police.
Attorney Helen Stolinas argued the case before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on September 14, 2016 on behalf of Ms. Grove. Of the Court’s 5-2 ruling, she states, “We are pleased with the court’s decision that routine traffic stops and responses to automobile accidents do not per se constitute investigative or criminal records. The opinion also affirmed our position that requiring an agency to redact electronic records does not constitute the “creation” of a record and does not exempt the video or other electronic record from being released to the public. This is a victory for Ms. Grove, for the citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the press, as it allows for greater oversight of the activities of public servants.”
If you have a question about an adverse ruling in a criminal, civil, or administrative matter, and are considering appealing, contact the experienced attorneys at the Mazza Law Group.
Pennsylvania Supreme Court Decides Right-to-Know Case in Favor of Centre County Resident was last modified: June 21st, 2017 by Helen Stolinas