Lessons in Law - When is it Legal to Record a Conversation?

Sooner or later you may find it necessary to tape recorded conversation. Tape recording can be especially useful in

conversations where you need to remember exactly what was said.

However the laws covering tape recording conversations are different depending on where you live.

Here's a quick and simple guide to when it might be legal to tape record conversations and when it is not.

However, before you do it, check your state's laws.

First, it it's not legal in the United States to tape record a

conversation in which you are not a party unless you have a court order or the parties to the

conversation have given you specific permission to record it. If you're not part of a conversation

and you don't have permission to record it, don't.

The only exception is that businesses may monitor phone calls that employees make but even then a warning should be given.

Next, under federal law, you may tape record any conversation as long as you are a part of the conversation.

Federal law only requires that one person know the

conversation is being recorded and the person who knows can be the same person who was doing the recording.

So if you're part of a conversation and you're recording it, that is legal under federal law.

Finally if you're recording a conversation in which you and the other person are in two different states or countries,

it is only legal if you inform all the parties before recording

or you use recording equipment that informs all the parties either by playing a recorded warning or by beeping so that the parties know its there.

You must also be able to physically detach the recording device from the phone

but you're not out of the woods yet.

Some US states have their own laws about when you can and cannot tape record a

conversation and these laws are often stricter than the federal one person rule.

State law applies unless the phone call crosses the state line or leaves the country. In those cases federal law applies.

Most states have the basic requirement as the federal law, only one party to the conversation needs to know it's being recorded.

Some states require two party notification. In other words, both parties to a phone call or of everyone involved in a conversation

must know it's being recorded.

These states also require an opt-out notice or chance for anyone in the conversation to ask that the recording stop.

To find out which law your state follows, look on our website