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  • Diligentia Group is a boutique investigative firm dedicated to providing law firms, financial institutions and decision makers with comprehensive background investigations, due diligence investigations and legal investigation services.
  • Private Investigator Tips: Is it Legal to Record a Phone Call or Conversation?

    by Brian Willingham

    Post image for Private Investigator Tips: Is it Legal to Record a Phone Call or Conversation?

    We are frequently asked if it is legal to record a phone call or conversation. The answer is not as simple as you may think.

    There are various state and federal statutes that apply to the legality of recording a conversation. The information below is by no means comprehensive. If you are contemplating recording a phone call or conversation, you should seek advice from a legal professional.

    The Basics: “One-Party Consent” vs. “Two-Party Consent”

    The District of Columbia and 39 states are one-party consent, and 11 states are two-party consent (see table below). A one-party consent state permits individuals to record conversations to which they are a party without informing the other parties that they are doing so. In other words, one-party states allow recording of phone calls with the consent of only one of the parties to the conversation.

    Based on the name, you would think that a two-party state would require consent of two parties; however, under most circumstances, all of the parties must provide consent.



    Where One-Party Notification Is Required

    Alabama Louisiana Oregon
    Alaska Maine Ohio
    Arizona Minnesota Rhode Island
    Arkansas Mississippi South Carolina
    Colorado Missouri South Dakota
    District of Columbia Nebraska Tennessee
    Georgia Nevada Texas
    Hawaii New Jeresey Utah
    Idaho New Mexico Vermont
    Indiana New York Virginia
    Iowa North Carolina West Virginia
    Kansas North Dakota Wisconsin
    Kentucky Oklahoma Wyoming

    Where Two-Party Notification is Required 

    California Illinois Montana
    Connecticut Massachusetts New Hampshire
    Delaware Maryland Pennsylvania
    Florida Michigan Washington

    In-Person Conversation vs. Phone Call Recording

    This information generally applies to recording a conversation in person. If you are in a one-party state and need to record a conversation in person with another person, you must follow the applicable laws of the state that you are in. Likewise with a two-party state.

    (If you are looking for a digital voice recorder [affiliate link], Amazon has number of high quality voice recorders starting at around $25.)

    However, what if you are recording a phone conversation taking place between two different states that have two different consent requirements? For example, if you are making a phone call from New York (a one-party state) to California (a two-party state), what do you do?

    The general rule of thumb is that you should abide by the law of the state with the most strict statute, which in this case would be California.

    (If you want to record a conversation through your computer, Pamela for Skype [affiliate link] is a great tool that we have been using for years with great success.)

    Other Things to Know

    Generally, it is almost always illegal to record a phone call or conversation to which you are not a party. Every state except Vermont has criminal penalties for unlawful recording.

    Final Thought

    Whether it is legal to record a phone call or conversation is more complicated than you may think.

    We hope this information will serve as a general guide, and is not intended to substitute for expert legal counsel. It is always best to talk with an attorney if you have questions about the legal implications of recording calls in your state. 

    Additional Resources:

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    { 135 comments… read them below or add one }

    John Levy March 23, 2014 at 12:19 am

    If I’m In NY ( 1 party state), and i want to record a telephone conversation with someone i call in Florida (2 party state), and I make the phone call from NY. Does the NY law apply 1 party consent or The Florida law 2 party consent apply?

    Reply

    Brian Willingham March 23, 2014 at 5:29 am

    As outlined above, the general rule of thumb is if you are in a one-party state and need to record a conversation in person with another person, you must follow the applicable laws of the state that you are in. Likewise with a two-party state.

    Reply

    Clair February 12, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    Thanks for the article, very nice work. Do you know in a 2-party state, FL, if someone calls for someone else and you ask something like, who’s calling?, then they typically give you some incomplete name like “Tom” and no other info, and quickly jam in – “this call may be recorded for quality assurance”, then you answer something to the effect of “NO CONSENT” or in this case ‘we don’t accept recorded calls’ and hang up, my question is whether since the brief ‘we don’t accept recorded calls’ is a legal recording in itself. Whatever the answer, I suppose it is better just to say nothing and hang up, but I would like to know about this finer point. I do not know who is calling since they don’t identify themselves properly.

    Reply

    Viger Vay December 24, 2013 at 8:08 am

    I am in Michigan and have cell phone recordings of conversations with my former Landlord regarding his verbal consent allowing me to move out four days into a new month without having to pay rent for that month. He’s now saying I owe for that month and is decided not to return the security deposit because of back rent owed.

    If I go to small claims, can I use the phone recordings as proof that he indicated that no rent would be due for that month?

    Reply

    Brian Willingham January 4, 2014 at 5:47 am

    I wouldn’t. You are opening yourself up to possible prosecution for illegally recording a conversation.

    Reply

    Mich Native February 10, 2014 at 8:25 am

    Double check. If you are in Michigan and record a conversation that you are involved in, you have a right to record it. Confusion arises in the court’s definition of “eavesdropping” Both party consent is required if you are the third party recording a conversation of which you do NOT take part. Tenant, talk with a lawyer and do some more research but you may be able to use this in court.

    Reply

    keena December 23, 2013 at 11:30 pm

    I recorded a meeting in which I was IN were I knew my boss was going to yell and curse at me in front of all of my fellow employees. Which she did. I want to take my recording to my corporate office. Is this legal. I live in CO.

    Reply

    Brian Willingham January 4, 2014 at 5:48 am

    Indiana is a one-party state. Only one person (you) need to be aware of the conversation.

    Reply

    James December 12, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    I am trying to get custody of my daughter and i want to record my phone conversations with my daughters mother and family to possibly use in court. Is this legal, i live in Minnesota and my daughter lives in Iowa.

    Reply

    Brian Willingham December 14, 2013 at 8:03 am

    You should be fine, but I would consult an attorney.

    Reply

    Brett C December 7, 2013 at 7:51 pm

    Greetings Brian Willingham,
    If someone in a two part state does not consent to the recording, do you have to legally stop recording the call and vise versa?

    Reply

    Brian Willingham December 14, 2013 at 8:04 am

    If there is no consent, then it is not a legal recording.

    Reply

    Ashley December 6, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    I live in CO and recorded a phone conversation I had with my landlord. She did not know. Could I use this in court??

    Reply

    Brian Willingham December 14, 2013 at 8:05 am

    Yes, you can. Colorado is a one-party state.

    Reply

    Joe November 21, 2013 at 6:14 am

    If you suspect you are being recorded and ask about it. Does the recording party have to reveal that they are recording? In a one party state.

    Reply

    Brian Willingham November 22, 2013 at 5:03 am

    I don’t think there is any particular law about that, although I don’t know for sure.

    Reply

    Sammy October 16, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    Can a person who you would consider a “friend” come in to your private home and record a conversation (Ohio is the state) and use that conversation to sue her previous employer because you are still employed there? This caused embarrassment, anxiety and my boss looks at me differently because of it. What rights do I have against her? Does this constitute a “reasonable right to privacy”?

    Reply

    Brian Willingham October 16, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    As long as your “friend” was a party to the conversation, it is perfectly legal in Ohio.

    Reply

    Bryon R. October 3, 2013 at 10:17 pm

    It is now on the books that Illinois is in fact a two-party consent state. Beware – it holds very strict penalties !

    Reply

    Brian Willingham October 4, 2013 at 3:57 am

    Thanks Bryon.

    Reply

    Jenna September 16, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    If I am in a “2 party” state, but the person I am talking to is in a “1 party” state, which rules apply?

    Reply

    Brian Willingham September 17, 2013 at 3:25 am

    The general rule of thumb is that you should abide by the law of the state with the most strict statute, which in this case is the two-party state.

    Reply

    Bob Smith September 12, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    Can a company in Maryland record a conversation on the phone between employee to employee on the intercom. And can the company also record the phone conversation between employee and the client without the knowledge of both party. Only the owner of the company is aware of the recording on the phone system.

    Reply

    Brian Willingham September 12, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    In Maryland, all parties of a conversation must be aware of the conversation in order to legally record it.

    Reply

    Bob Smith September 13, 2013 at 10:22 am

    thank you for your reply …… I also have this question ….can a company tape record a conversation without the employees or the clients knowledge and use an excuse that is doing a recording for training purposes?

    Reply

    Brian Willingham September 13, 2013 at 10:25 am

    You are opening up some serious liability, not to mention issues with employees.

    Reply

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