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Is it Legal to Record Phone Calls and Conversations?

The thought of someone recording your conversation seems like a breach of privacy, but it’s actually legal in many states. If you plan on recording phone calls, in-person conversations, or videos with sound, your state may allow you to legally record the entire conversation as long as at least one party is aware of the recording. The laws vary by state, so remember that if they’re not followed correctly, you may be at risk of criminal prosecution.

What are your state’s laws? Let’s find out.

Legality

Laws pertaining to the recording of conversations vary by a state and federal basis. The main thing you must keep in mind is that you may either have to get one party’s permission or everybody’s permission in order to record a conversation or phone call. Some states allow one party to consent, while other states require two or more parties to consent. Therefore, it’s best to review your state’s requirements before moving forward with any recordings.

In addition to that, it becomes more complicated when individuals are located in different states. For example, let’s say that there’s a conversation happening between two people: one person is in Texas while the other is located in California. California law requires both parties to consent while Texas only requires one party to consent to any recording. So, which law applies to this situation? There’s no clear answer, so it’s best to either get consent from all parties or to follow the strictest state policy. This ensures that you’re not inadvertently breaching any privacy or wiretapping laws.

Recording Conversations Under Federal Law

The federal law, under Title 18 2511, requires one-party consent when it comes to the recording of any conversation. This means that at least one person involved in the conversation must be aware that the conversation is being preserved. If someone wants to record a conversation that they’re not involved in, they must receive permission to record the conversation from at least one person who’s participating in the dialogue.

Additionally, you must not record a conversation with criminal intent, such as for use in a blackmail scheme or other nefarious purposes.

Consenting to any recorded conversation typically comes in the form of verbal communication, which should be recorded. Generally, in order to get consent for any form of conversation-recording, one (or more) party must:

  1. Notify the person that they intend to record 
  2. Let the person know why they’re recording
  3. Get consent off-the-record
  4. Start the recording
  5. Re-confirm their consent on the recording device

Remember, each state has different requirements. Before recording any conversation, ensure that you get consent from all necessary parties.

State Conversation Recording Laws

Each state has its own wiretapping statutes and rules regarding how to handle conversation recordings. State law dictates how consent needs to be handled, and whether one or more parties need to be present during the consent process. Additionally, states also clarify whether recording devices are permitted in public meetings or court hearings. Overall, it’s vital that you check your state’s laws before recording anything.

One-party consent means that the states below only require one person’s consent before recording any conversation.

These states include: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

The states below require all participating parties to give consent before recording conversations:

California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington.

Breaking Down the Laws

For more details or to hear about penalties (such as misdemeanors or felonies), you may either visit your state’s government website or you may look at this helpful recording guide by Justia.com. Generally, it’s a good idea to check on your state’s website or to consult with legal counsel before recording any conversation. This is the best way to avoid any legal penalties.

A

AlabamaAt least one party should consent before any recording occurs.
AlaskaOne party must consent to any recording.
ArizonaOne or more parties must consent to a recording of any kind.
ArkansasYou may not record any in-person or phone conversation if you’re not in the party.

C

CaliforniaAll parties must consent to any in-person or phone conversation. In certain situations, there must also be an audible beep at specific intervals.
ColoradoOne party must consent to any recorded conversation.
ConnecticutUnder criminal law, at least one party must consent. However, in the civil context, all parties must consent in writing prior to the conversation.

D

DelawareAll parties must consent to any recordings.
District of ColumbiaOne person must consent to any recording or any conversation.

F

FloridaAll parties must consent to any recording.

G

GeorgiaYou must receive consent from at least one party involved.

H

HawaiiOne party must consent to any recording.

I

IdahoThe consent of at least one party is required before recording.
IllinoisAll parties must consent to the recording of any conversation. Recording in public places is acceptable.
IndianaYou may record a conversation as long as one party consents.
IowaYou must receive the consent of at least one party in order to record a conversation.

K

KansasOne party must consent to any type of recording.

L

LouisianaYou must receive consent from one party.

M

MaineAt least one party must consent to any recording.
MarylandAll parties must consent to any oral or telephone conversation.
MassachusettsAll parties must consent to any oral, telephone, or wire communication conversation.
MichiganAll telephone and in-person conversations must have the consent of all parties.
MinnesotaYou must receive consent from one or more parties, and the recording must not have criminal intent.
MississippiOne party must consent to any recording.
MissouriYou must receive consent from at least one party.
MontanaAll parties must consent to any recording pertaining to an in-person conversation or phone call.

N

NebraskaOne party must consent to any recording.
NevadaIt is illegal to record oral communication without the consent of one party. Also, all parties must give consent to any phone conversation.
New HampshireAll parties must consent to any in-person or telephone conversation.
New JerseyOne party must consent to any in-person or telephone conversation recordings.
New MexicoThere aren’t laws prohibiting individuals to record in-person conversations. However, one party must give consent for any electronic conversations.
New YorkAt least one party must give consent for any in-person or telephone conversation recording.
North CarolinaIn-person and telephone call recordings are legal as long as one person consents.

O

OhioOne party must consent to any conversation recording.
OklahomaYou must receive permission from at least one party to record a conversation.
OregonYou may record any telephone conversation with the consent of one party, but in-person conversations require consent from all parties.

P

PennsylvaniaAll parties must consent to any recordings.

R

Rhode IslandIn-person and phone conversations must recieve permission from at least one party before any recordings.

S

South CarolinaAt least one party must consent.
South DakotaOne party must consent to any type of conversation recording.

T

TennesseeAt least one party must consent to any type of recording.
TexasAny oral or electronic communication must undergo consent from at least one party before recording.

U

UtahOne party must consent to any recording.

V

VermontThere are no specific laws, however, officers may not place recording devices inside of people’s residences without their knowledge.
VirginiaOne party must consent to any recordings.

W

WashingtonAll parties must consent to any recordings. An announcement made to all parties is considered “consent.”
West VirginiaYou must receive permission from at least one party.
WisconsinOne party must consent to any type of recording.
WyomingAt least one party must consent to the recording.

Next Steps

Generally, before taking any action to record a conversation, it’s wise to speak with a legal expert or with your local labor board. They will be able to tell you who needs to give consent and how to do it correctly. This is a fantastic way to prevent yourself from receiving any sort of legal punishments later on.

Remember: As a rule of thumb, it’s important to follow whatever law is the strictest when you’re communicating with someone in a different state. Ultimately, the law that requires consent from all parties applies in this situation.

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