2-06 Recording Phone Calls, Conversations, Meetings, and Hearings


  • Key Questions on Recordings, Consent, and Legal Consequences
  • Matthiesen, Wickert & Lehrer, S.C., Attorneys at Law: Laws on Recording Conversations in All 50 States

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Key Questions on Recordings, Consent, and Legal Consequences

Different kinds of situations with recording seem to come up repeatedly in issues of abuse, where someone records phone calls or in-person visits etc. as a means to document conversations and/or encounters. Sometimes the person recording is the abuser (and they’re using this as a tool of abuse), sometimes a survivor (who is documenting abuse), sometimes a reporter or “citizen journalist”/blogger (who is using the data to inform the public). Sometimes the recording device is hidden, sometimes out in the open. Sometimes the setting is public, other times private. So, there can be a lot of factors to consider.

If you are a blogger, it’s important to understand that things are changing and keep up with case law that has gradually been clarifying the rights and responsibilities of bloggers and how that relates to “regular” journalists.

Research investigations and writing for news reports or blog posts can potentially involve recording phone calls, in-person conversations, and meetings/hearings that might involve abuse survivors; alleged perpetrators and enablers; and others interviewees, individuals, or attendees. These all raise several clusters of important issues to consider. Here is what I have come across in my research writing to date:

CONSENT LAWS. Can a reporter or citizen journalist blogger can legally record such interactions at all, with their own “one-party consent,” or requiring “all-party consent” of both interviewer and interviewee(s)?

WORKPLACE MONITORING/RECORDING. Are there other applicable laws relevant to employers monitoring and/or recording phone calls made on workplace equipment or other conversations occuring in the workplace?

RECORDINGS AT OFFICIAL MEETINGS. What specific laws and regulations may govern recording situations that involve official meetings and hearings, such as court proceedings, political entity meetings (city councils, county boards, school boards, etc.)?

RECORDING POLICE OFFICERS. Is it legal to openly record activities of police officers and other authorities — as long as it does not interfere with their carrying out their duties/activities? What about hidden/secret recordings of police officers?

LEGAL RECORDINGS. When and how can legal recordings be used?

ILLEGAL RECORDINGS. What are potential legal consequences (criminal and civil) to those who made and/or publish illegal recordings? What is the admissibility status of recorded evidence obtained through means that violate applicable laws?

EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES FOR “RECORDINGS.” Are laws related to recordings and public posting under adjustment to accommodate the advent of smart phones and other technology with audio recording, photography, and videotaping capabilities?

While there are online and print resources that list relevant statutes and discuss some of these concerns, it would be wisest to get legal counsel for input current applicable laws and regulations of the jurisdiction, if you anticipate any of these situations that involve recordings.

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Matthiesen, Wickert & Lehrer, S.C., Attorneys at Law:

Laws on Recording Conversations in All 50 States

Matthiesen, Wickert & Lehrer, S.C., Attorneys at Law, have produced an online guide to Laws on Recording Conversations in All 50 States. (PDF accessed February 11, 2018, and most recent updated noted as being done January 3, 2018.) It has several pages of analysis and description that lay out the contours of state and federal laws on consent for recordings. It also provides a chart that summarizes state laws on consent, with related legal citations.

Description sections include:

  • One-Party Consent.
  • All-Party Consent.
  • Wiretapping vs. Eavesdropping.
  • Consent.
  • Exceptions.
  • Federal Law.

The four-columns state-by-state chart covers:

  • State (also includes a line for Federal and District of Columbia, but none for the US territories).
  • Consent (type: one party, all parties, mixed, no statute).
  • Authority (statutes citations).
  • Explanation/Additional Information (quotes, summaries of legal issues, special notes).

Please be sure to note the disclaimers on the last page and adhere to them.

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