Due to the recent TSA detainment audio being released for all to hear it begs the questions: Can I secretly tape my own conversations in my state? Are there federal laws that restrict this type of recording?
A bit of research revealed an excellent web site encompassing the laws for each state. The “Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press” has a section on their web site called “Can We Tape?” While the site is geared towards journalists the laws apply to all of us when recording conversations without consent.
From the site:
Federal law allows recording of phone calls and other electronic communications with the consent of at least one party to the call. A majority of the states and territories have adopted wiretapping statutes based on the federal law, although most also have extended the law to cover in-person conversations. Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia permit individuals to record conversations to which they are a party without informing the other parties that they are doing so. These laws are referred to as “one-party consent” statutes, and as long as you are a party to the conversation, it is legal for you to record it. (Nevada also has a one-party consent statute, but the state Supreme Court has interpreted it as an all-party rule.)
Twelve states require, under most circumstances, the consent of all parties to a conversation. Those jurisdictions are California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington. Be aware that you will sometimes hear these referred to inaccurately as “two-party consent” laws. If there are more than two people involved in the conversation, all must consent to the taping.
Regardless of the state, it is almost always illegal to record a conversation to which you are not a party, do not have consent to tape, and could not naturally overhear. [Unless you are acting on behalf of the government, apparently.]
Also on the site is a quick glance table showing the laws for each state and a state by state summary of the law.
What about interstate communications? Can they be recorded? Yes, they can, but it is best to adhere to the state’s laws that are more restrictive to be safe. That is the advice given to reporters on the site, but it is a good method to follow for everyone.
So if you live in Virginia and you want to record your conversations with your crazy girlfriend who lives in Maryland you should get her consent before doing so to be safe from the law.
To all of the potential Steve Bierfeldt’s out there… know the law then record away!