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
|District of Columbia||Nebraska||Tennessee|
|Iowa||North Carolina||West Virginia|
Where Two-Party Notification is Required
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.
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.