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Is It Legal to Secretly Record a Phone Conversation?

record phone conversation

 

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Wiretaps, scanners, and other secret recording devices are a notorious feature of spy dramas and private detective lore.  Today, however, state and federal law makers have addressed concerns that such recording methods invade individuals’ privacy by enacting laws that prohibit the use of recording devices unless one or all parties to the conversation consent to being recorded.

The Federal Law

Under federal law (18 U.S.C. 2511), recording a conversation is only legal if one of the parties to the conversation gives prior consent.  Therefore, interception of conversations through scanners, switchboards or other devices is illegal, as is disclosing or using any information obtained through illegal means.  Violation of the law is punishable by up to 5 years in prison, a criminal fine, or both.

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Dr. Nick Oberheiden
Dr. Nick Oberheiden

Founder

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John W. Sellers
John W. Sellers

Former Senior Trial Attorney
U.S. Department of Justice

Local Counsel

Joanne Fine DeLena
Joanne Fine DeLena

Former Assistant U.S. Attorney

Local Counsel

Joe Brown
Joe Brown

Former U.S. Attorney & Former District Attorney

Local Trial & Defense Counsel

Amanda Marshall
Amanda Marshall

Former U.S. Attorney

Local Counsel

Aaron L. Wiley
Aaron L. Wiley

Former Federal Prosecutor

Local Counsel

Roger Bach
Roger Bach

Former Special Agent (OIG)

Michael Koslow
Michael Koslow

Former Supervisory Special Agent (FBI)

Chris Quick
Chris Quick

Former Special Agent (FBI & IRS-CI)

Kevin M. Sheridan
Kevin M. Sheridan

Former Special Agent (FBI)

Ray Yuen
Ray Yuen

Former Supervisory Special Agent (FBI)

Dennis A. Wichern
Dennis A. Wichern

Former Special Agent-in-Charge (DEA)

State Laws

State laws vary as to whether they require one party or all parties to consent to a recording for the recording to be legal.  Below is a breakdown of the laws by state:

States Where All Parties Must Consent

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

States Where Just One Party Need Consent

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

Oberheiden, P.C.888-680-1745Federal-Lawyer.comNot all attorneys of Oberheiden, P.C. are licensed in California and nothing contained in here is meant to constitute the unauthorized practice of law.

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