Understanding Voice Recording Laws By State

Advancements in technology have made it very easy to record conversations nowadays like never before. You can easily record voice on a mobile phone, over a landline, or even in-person conversation using a hidden recording device. The recorded conversations, whether digital or tape, can prove very helpful in a variety of scenarios. You can use them for investigation of employee misconduct, in potential criminal investigations or even in personal or business lawsuits.

State-by-State Recording Laws

Regardless of the US state you come from, recording a conversation to which you are not a party, could not naturally hear or do not have consent is almost always illegal. The federal law, as well as most state laws, have also made the act of disclosing contents of an illegally intercepted communication or call illegal. In some states, there are laws that prevent the torturous or criminal use of recordings regardless of whether you had consent or not. In at least twenty states, there are laws that outlaw certain uses of hidden cameras in places that are considered private.

Going Against Federal and State Recording Laws

What would happen if you record a phone conversation or in-person conversation even when the federal or state laws do not allow it? Doing that may very well open you to civil suits or criminal charges. It is very unlikely that you will be legally authorized to use the recordings for the original purpose that you had in mind when recording them. So before you go ahead and use a voice-activated recorder to record conversations or record phone calls, make sure that you take a look at the applicable laws.

Where To Find Voice Recording Laws

You can start by checking out the federal wiretapping statute, which is also referred to as the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. What you will learn from this statue is that federal laws allow phone calls, whether cellular traditional or cordless and other forms of electronic communication to be recorded as long as there is consent of at least one individual who is party to the conversation.

However, you cannot stop after considering the federal laws and assume that you can go about recording people any way you want. In each state and territory, there are statutes regarding voice recording. In most states, wiretapping and eavesdropping laws are usually based on the federal laws. They allow recording so long as one individual that it party to the conversation provides consent.

One Party Consent States

A total of 37 states allow one party consent recording of oral communications, including Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Utah, Oklahoma, just to mention a few. The District of Columbia also allows recording of conversations with the consent of one individual that it party to the conversation. In Nevada, there is a one part consent statute even though there is some question regarding how the law needs to be interpreted by the courts.

All Party Consent States

12 states in the US require all parties that are involved in a conversation to provide consent before it can be recorded, including California, Maryland, Illinois, Florida, Washington, just to mention a few. California has an exception that allows you to record the conversation with the consent of only one party if criminal activity such as bribery, extortion, kidnapping or violent felony is involved.

It is illegal to record communications or conversations that you are not participating in. To make a voice recording of a discussion or conversation, you need to have the consent of at least one or all of the participants.

The Two Party Recording States Of The US

Before you record conversations or communication using your phone, a camera or hidden recording device in the US, it is imperative that you understand the legalities of recording with these devices. It is legal to record using a hidden camera inside your home. You can do this without getting consent from the person that is being recorded for the most part. However, you need to keep in mind that audio recording and video recording are entirely different entities.

What to Do Before Using Spy Cameras and Nanny Cams

Before you go ahead and install spy cameras and nanny cans in your home, make sure that you understand what your state laws say about that. You need to make sure that your particular state laws allow you to make this kind of recording. Just to be safe and avoid any potential lawsuit, it will be a good idea to speak with an attorney about how you plan to use your camera. In most of the states, it is not legal to record in any area, including inside your home, that is considered private or has a reasonable expectation of privacy, for instance, your bedroom, other people’s bedrooms and so on.

Two Party Consent States

Two party consent just means that all people that are part of a conversation must agree before the conversation can be recorded. While they are known as two-party consent laws, it is important to understand that consent should be obtained from everyone that is part of a conversion or call if it involves many people. The 12 states where the two party consent law applies include California, Delaware, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, Illinois, Massachusetts, Montana, Michigan, New Hampshire, Washington and Pennsylvania. In many of these states, the fact everyone that is participating in a conversation or a call knows that you are recording and carry on with the conversation anyway may be enough, regardless of whether they provide explicit voice consent or not.

Recording With A Hidden Camera In Public

Usage of a hidden camera in public has some legal particulars that you need to know. When in an open space where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy, for instance, a park, restaurant or shopping mall, you may covertly record using a hidden camera. But if you happen to be in a public place with an expectation of privacy such as a bathroom, locker room, change room, hotel room and soon, it may be illegal to covertly record. You also need to keep in mind that it is illegal in any state in the US to record with a hidden camera for malicious intent such as blackmail. If you record under these circumstances, all rights will be waived even if you followed the law to the letter when making the recordings.

Laws surrounding audio recording tend to be clearer compared to laws regarding hidden cameras in most states. Both federal and state laws require one of the individuals that are participating in a conversation to consent when recording an in-person conversation or a phone call. Most states insist on two-part consent in situations where the recording device is being used in a private area.