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.