Publishing the names of crime victims and witnesses online could soon mean a harsher punishment in Pennsylvania.
State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams said wants to make it safer for people to cooperate with police during criminal investigations. So he has reintroduced legislation that could send people behind bars for up to 10 years for publishing the confidential names of witnesses and victims as a way of intimidation.
“Technology has many benefits to it and, of course, consequences and unintended consequences — and this is one,” he said Tuesday.
Williams, D-Philadelphia, said he will use a statewide mapping approach so his colleagues in Harrisburg realize this is not just a Philadelphia problem and agree to support Senate Bill 1263.
“Unfortunately, there have been a number of somewhat high-profile occasions where the police have discovered through Instagram or a number of other social media where names, testimony, pictures have been published of witnesses and in fact they have led to tragic results,” he said.
The legislation, dubbed the “Website Witness & Victim Protection Act,” would make it a second-degree felony to publish the names of witnesses or victims.
“Witness intimidation is a very serious matter that destroys the very core of our criminal justice system,” city District Attorney Seth Williams said in a written statement. “We are thankful for Sen. Williams’ interests and look forward to working with him to address a few concerns regarding the operation of his proposed legislation.”