State Law: Recording

Each state has its own wiretapping statute and its own rule on how many parties need to consent to the recording of a phone call or conversation in order to make it lawful. State law also varies on whether or not (and under what circumstances) you are permitted to use recording devices in public meetings and court hearings. Choose your state from the list below for state-specific information on recording laws.

 

Arizona Recording Law

Note: This page covers information specific to Arizona. For general information concerning the use of recording devices see the Recording Phone Calls, Conversations, Meetings and Hearings section of this guide.

Arizona Wiretapping Law

Arizona's wiretapping law is a "one-party consent" law. Arizona makes it a crime to intercept a "wire or electronic communication" or a "conversation or discussion" unless you are a party to the communication, present during the conversation or discussion, or one party to the communication or conversation consents. A.R.S. § 13-3005, -3012(9). Therefore, if you operate in Arizona, you may record a conversation or phone call if you are a party to the conversation or you get permission from one party to the conversation in advance. That said, if you intend to record conversations involving people located in more than one state, you should abide by the recording law of the most restrictive state involved, or play it safe and get the consent of all parties.

The wiretapping law covers oral communications when the speakers have "an expectation that the communication is not subject to interception under circumstances justifying the expectation," A.R.S. § 13-3001, but absent the speakers' justified expectation, the law does not apply. See State v. Hauss, 142 Ariz. 159, 164 (Ariz. Ct. App. 1984). Therefore, you may be able to record in-person conversations occurring in a public place, such as a street or restaurant, without consent. However, you should seek the consent of one or all of the parties before recording any conversation that an ordinary person would deem private.

Violation of the Arizona law is a felony, punishable by imprisonment and fine. See A.R.S. §§ 13-601, -603, -702, and -801 for more details.

In addition, while recording a conversation with the consent of only one party is legal in Arizona, a lawyer's recording of a conversation without the consent of all parties may be unethical under the Arizona Rules of Professional Conduct. See State Bar of Arizona Ethics Opinions 75-13, 95-03. However, an attorney may advise her client to record a conversation without the consent of all parties as long as the recording is legal and the attorney does not participate in the recording. See State Bar of Arizona Ethics Opinion 00-04.

In addition to subjecting you to criminal prosecution, violating the Arizona wiretapping law can expose you to a civil lawsuit for damages by an injured party. See A.R.S. § 12-731.

Arizona Law on Recording Court Hearings and Public Meetings

 

Court Hearings

Video and tape recording in Arizona state courtrooms is governed by Arizona Supreme Court Rule 122. Rule 122 allows recording at the sole discretion of the presiding judge. However, recording is flatly prohibited in juvenile court proceedings. The full text of Rule 122 can be found on the Arizona Judicial Branch's Arizona Court Rules website, under the "Current Arizona Rules" link. See also the Arizona Supreme Court website on cameras in the Court.

If the presiding judge wants to limit or prohibit recording, he or she must make "specific, on-the-record findings that there is a likelihood of harm arising from one or more" of the following factors:

  1. The impact of coverage upon the right of any party to a fair trial;
  2. The impact of coverage upon the right of privacy of any party or witness;
  3. The impact of coverage upon the safety and well-being of any party, witness or juror;
  4. The likelihood that coverage would distract participants or would detract from the dignity of the proceedings;
  5. The adequacy of the physical facilities of the court for coverage;
  6. The timeliness of the request pursuant to subsection (f) of this Rule; and
  7. Any other factor affecting the fair administration of justice.

"Requests by the media for coverage" of court proceedings must generally be made no less than two days in advance of the hearing. Rule 122(f). "Individual journalists" may use "personal audio recorders in the courtroom." Rule 122(i). However, Rule 122 limits the number of television cameras allowed in the courtroom and establishes requirements for their placement and wiring.

Rule 122(k) forbids "[c]overage of jurors in a manner that will permit recognition of individual jurors by the public." Arizona law also explicitly prohibits interception of jury deliberations. A.R.S. § 13-3005(A)(3).

The federal trial court in Arizona appears to prohibit recording devices and cameras in the courtroom. See D. Ariz. LRCiv 43.1. However, according to the website of the 9th Circuit, the federal appeals court, the 9th Circuit is "one of two federal appellate courts to regularly allow still and video cameras and audio recorders in the courtroom for purposes of reporting on the proceeding." The Court has promulgated guidelines for photographing, recording, and broadcasting in the courtroom. The guidelines vest discretion in the presiding judge to grant or deny requests for recording court proceedings, and requests must generally be made at least three business days in advance. The guidelines apply to coverage by the "media," or "any person or entity regularly engaged in the gathering and dissemination of news." It is not clear from the guidelines whether these terms include non traditional media organizations or citizen journalists.

For information on your right of access to court proceedings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of this guide.

Public Meetings

Arizona's open meetings law provides that "[a]ll or any part of a public meeting of a public body may be recorded by any person in attendance by means of a tape recorder or camera or any other means of sonic reproduction, provided that there is no active interference with the conduct of the meeting." A.R.S. § 38-431.01(F).

For information on your right of access to public meetings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of the guide and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Open Government Guide: Arizona.

 

California Recording Law

Note: This page covers information specific to California. For general information concerning the use of recording devices see the Recording Phone Calls, Conversations, Meetings and Hearings section of this guide.

California Wiretapping Law

California's wiretapping law is a "two-party consent" law. California makes it a crime to record or eavesdrop on any confidential communication, including a private conversation or telephone call, without the consent of all parties to the conversation. See Cal. Penal Code § 632. The statute applies to "confidential communications" -- i.e., conversations in which one of the parties has an objectively reasonable expectation that no one is listening in or overhearing the conversation. See Flanagan v. Flanagan, 41 P.3d 575, 576-77, 578-82 (Cal. 2002).  A California appellate court has ruled that this statute applies to the use of hidden video cameras to record conversations as well. See California v. Gibbons, 215 Cal. App. 3d 1204 (Cal Ct. App. 1989).

If you are recording someone without their knowledge in a public or semi-public place like a street or restaurant, the person whom you're recording may or may not have "an objectively reasonable expectation that no one is listening in or overhearing the conversation," and the reasonableness of the expectation would depend on the particular factual circumstances.  Therefore, you cannot necessarily assume that you are in the clear simply because you are in a public place.  

If you are operating in California, you should always get the consent of all parties before recording any conversation that common sense tells you might be "private" or "confidential." In addition to subjecting you to criminal prosecution, violating the California wiretapping law can expose you to a civil lawsuit for damages by an injured party. See Cal. Penal Code § 637.2.

Consult The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Can We Tape?: California for more information on California wiretapping law.

California Law on Recording Court Hearings and Public Meetings

Court Hearings

In a California state courtroom, you may be able to use a recording device if specific requirements are met. Anyone may use an inconspicuous personal recording device for note-taking purposes with the advance permission of the judge. For photographing, recording (other than as above), or broadcasting a court proceeding, you must file official media coverage request forms. These forms must be filed with the court at least five days before the event to be covered. The court has broad discretion to grant or deny such requests based on a number of factors. See Rule 1.150 of the California Rules of Court for details.

Federal courts in California are part of the Ninth Circuit. In Ninth Circuit appellate proceedings, cameras and recording devices are permitted at the discretion of the presiding panel of judges. To get permission, you need to file an Application for Permission to Photograph, Record, or Broadcast from the Courtroom three days in advance, although the panel can waive the advance notice requirement. Recording devices and cameras generally are prohibited in federal district courts in California.

For information on your right of access to court proceedings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of the guide.

Public Meetings

If you attend a public meeting (i.e., a meeting of a governmental body required to be open to the public by law) in California, you may make an audio or video recording unless the state or local body holding the meeting determines that the recording disrupts the proceedings by noise, illumination, or obstruction of view. Cal. Gov't Code § 11124.1(a); Cal Gov't Code §§ 54953.5(a),-.6.

For details on your right of access to public meetings, see the Access section and the The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Open Government Guide: California.

For information on your right of access to public meetings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of the guide.

District of Columbia Recording Law

Note: This page covers information specific to the District of Columbia. For general information concerning the use of recording devices see the Recording Phone Calls, Conversations, Meetings and Hearings section of this guide.

DC Wiretapping Law

The District of Columbia's wiretapping law is a "one-party consent" law. DC makes it a crime to record a phone call or conversation unless one party to the conversation consents. See D.C. Code § 23-542. Thus, if you operate in DC, you may record a conversation or phone call if you are a party to the conversation or you get permission from one party to the conversation in advance. That said, if you intend to record conversations involving people located in more than one state, you should play it safe and get the consent of all parties.

In addition to subjecting you to criminal prosecution, violating the DC wiretapping law can expose you to a civil lawsuit for damages by an injured party.

Consult The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Can We Tape?: District of Columbia for more information on DC wiretapping law.

DC Law on Recording Court Hearings and Public Meetings

Court Hearings

District of Columbia "state" courts prohibit recording in both trial and appellate courtrooms.

Federal courts in the District, at both the trial and appellate level, prohibit recording devices and cameras in the courtroom.

For information on your right of access to court proceedings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of the guide.

Public Meetings

The District of Columbia has no statutory provision about the use of recording devices or cameras at public meetings (i.e., meetings of a governmental body required to be open to the public by law), but the government body holding the meeting generally must make transcripts of the meeting available for public copying.

For information on your right of access to public meetings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of the guide and The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Open Government Guide: District of Columbia.

Florida Recording Law

Note: This page covers information specific to Florida. For general information concerning the use of recording devices see the Recording Phone Calls, Conversations, Meetings and Hearings section of this guide.

Florida Wiretapping Law

Florida's wiretapping law is a "two-party consent" law. Florida makes it a crime to intercept or record a "wire, oral, or electronic communication" in Florida, unless all parties to the communication consent. See Fla. Stat. ch. 934.03. Florida law makes an exception for in-person communications when the parties do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the conversation, such as when they are engaged in conversation in a public place where they might reasonably be overheard. If you are operating in Florida, you may record these kinds of in-person conversations without breaking the law. However, you should always get the consent of all parties before recording any telephone conversation and any in-person that common sense tells you is private.

In addition to subjecting you to criminal prosecution, violating the Florida wiretapping law can expose you to a civil lawsuit for damages by an injured party.

Consult The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Can We Tape?: Florida for more information on Florida wiretapping law.

Florida Law on Recording Court Hearings and Public Meetings

Court Hearings

Florida state courts generally allow the use of recording devices in the courtroom, both at the trial and appellate level. The presiding judge may prohibit recording devices from the courtroom only upon a showing that the presence of such devices will adversely affect the fairness or integrity of the proceedings.

Federal courts in Florida generally prohibit the use of recording devices and cameras in the courtroom, both at the trial and the appellate level.

For information on your right of access to court proceedings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of the guide.

Public Meetings

If you attend a public meeting (i.e., a meeting of a governmental body required to be open to the public by law) in Florida, generally you are permitted to use sound or video recording devices, so long as your recording does not disrupt the meeting.

For information on your right of access to public meetings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of this guide and The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Open Government Guide: Florida.

Georgia Recording Law

Note: This page covers information specific to Georgia. For general information concerning the use of recording devices see the Recording Phone Calls, Conversations, Meetings and Hearings section of this guide.

Georgia Wiretapping Law

Georgia's wiretapping law is a "one-party consent" law for purposes of making audio recordings of conversations. Georgia makes it a crime to secretly record a phone call or in-person conversation "originat[ing] in any private place" unless one party to the conversation consents. See Ga. Code §§ 16-11-62(1), 16-11-66 (link is to the entire code; you need to click through to Title 16, Chapter 11, Article 3, Part I, and then choose the specific provisions). Therefore, you may record a conversation or phone call if you are a party to the conversation or you get permission from one party to the conversation in advance. That said, if you intend to record conversations involving people located in more than one state, you should play it safe and get the consent of all parties.

In addition, Georgia has a special provision regarding the use of a hidden video camera. The law makes it a crime to use a device to "observe, photograph, or record the activities of another which occur in any private place and out of the public view" unless the person making the recording gets the consent of all the persons observed. Ga. Code § 16-11-62(2) (link is to the entire code; you need to click through to Title 16, Chapter 11, Article 3, Part I, and then choose the specific provision).

In addition to subjecting you to criminal prosecution, violating these provisions can expose you to a civil lawsuit for damages by an injured party.

Consult The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Can We Tape?: Georgia for more information on Georgia wiretapping law.

Georgia Law on Recording Court Hearings and Public Meetings

Court Hearings

You may record state court proceedings in Georgia, subject to a number of restrictions. At the trial court level, in order to record a court hearing, you must file a timely written request on a form provided by the court with the judge involved in the proceeding. The judge may decide to allow only one camera or recording device at a given time, and there is a prohibition on photographing or televising members of the jury.

At the appellate court level, you must make a written request to the court at least seven days in advance, and radio and television media are required to supply the court with a video or audio of the covered proceedings. It is not clear whether this latter requirement would apply to online publishers creating audio podcasts, video podcasts, or other online media similar to radio and television. In the appellate court, limitations are imposed on the number of cameras and photographers allowed in the courtroom at any given time.

In the Georgia Supreme Court, recording, photographing, and broadcasting is allowed without prior approval unless it "distracts from the dignity of the proceeding." The Supreme Court retains the authority to "limit, restrict, prohibit, and terminate the photographing, recording, and broadcasting of any judicial session." Limitations are imposed on the number of cameras and photographers allowed in the courtroom at any given time.

Federal courts in Georgia, both at the trial and appellate level, prohibit recording devices and cameras in the courtroom.

For information on your right of access to court proceedings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of the guide.

Public Meetings

Georgia law expressly provides that "[v]isual, sound, and visual and sound recording during open meetings shall be permitted." Ga. Code § 50-14-1 (link is to the entire code; you need to click through to Title 50, Chapter 14, and then choose the specific provision).

For information on your right of access to public meetings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of the guide and The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Open Government Guide: Georgia.

Illinois Recording Law

Note: This page covers information specific to Illinois. For general information concerning the use of recording devices see the Recording Phone Calls, Conversations, Meetings and Hearings section of this guide.

Illinois Wiretapping Law

In People v. Melongo, Docket No. 114852 (Ill. Mar. 20, 2014), the Supreme Court of Illinois held that Illinois' two-party eavesdropping statute, 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/14-1, -2 (scroll down), was unconstitutional on its face. The statute made it a crime to use an "eavesdropping device" to overhear or record a phone call or conversation without the consent of all parties to the conversation, regardless of whether the parties had an expectation of privacy. The Court held that the recording provisions of the statute, as written, adversely affected the First Amendment rights of people making recordings in a substantial number of circumstances where there were no legitimate privacy interests.  The Court further held that a provision of the statute prohibiting the disclosure of recordings likewise ran afoul of the First Amendment.

This does not mean, however, that recording of communications is now universally permitted in Illinois:

  • Recordings may still be subject to the "one-party" consent rule of the Federal wiretap act.
  • Communications reaching other states may be subject to the wiretapping laws of the remote state.
  • Secret recordings may still support an Illinois common-law claim for intrusion into the privacy of another. See, e.g., Narducci v. Village of Bellwood, 444 F. Supp. 2d 924, 938 (N.D. Ill. 2006).
  • Another Illinois statute, not necessarily affected by the decision in the Melongo case, makes it illegal to "videotape, photograph, or film" people without their consent in "a restroom, tanning bed, or tanning salon, locker room, changing room or hotel bedroom." 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/26-4(a) (scroll down).

Consult The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Can We Tape?: Illinois for more information on Illinois wiretapping lawyer.

Illinois Law on Recording Court Hearings and Public Meetings

Court Hearings

In Illinois state trial courts, the use of sound and video recording devices is prohibited except by an order of the Illinois Supreme Court. Use of recording devices is permitted in hearings of the state appellate courts, but you must notify the clerk of the court at least five days in advance, and the appellate court may choose to prohibit recording. If media coverage is permitted, only one television and one still camera will be allowed at any given time.

Federal courts in Illinois, both at the trial and appellate level, prohibit the use of sound and video recording devices in the courtroom.

For information on your right of access to court proceedings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of the guide.

Public Meetings

A provision of the Illinois open meetings law states that "any person may record the proceedings at meetings required to be open by this Act by tape, film or other means." The statute goes on, however, to say that the authority holding the meeting shall make "reasonable rules to govern the right to make such recordings." 5 Ill Comp. Stat. 120/2.05 (scroll down).

For information on your right of access to public meetings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of the guide and The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Open Government Guide: Illinois.

Indiana Recording Law

Note: This page covers information specific to Indiana. For general information concerning the use of recording devices see the Recording Phone Calls, Conversations, Meetings and Hearings section of this guide.

Indiana Wiretapping Law

Indiana's wiretapping law is a "one-party consent" law. Indiana makes it a crime to record a telephone conversation unless one party to the conversation consents. See Ind. Code § 35-31.5-2-176 and Ind. Code § 35-33.5-5-5. Therefore, you may record a telephone conversation if you are a party to the conversation or you get permission from one party to the conversation. That said, if you intend to record conversations involving people located in more than one state, you should play it safe and get the consent of all parties. In-person conversations do not appear to be covered by the law, but it cannot hurt to get consent before recording just in case.

In addition to subjecting you to criminal prosecution, violating the Indiana wiretapping law can expose you to a civil lawsuit for damages by an injured party. Ind. Code § 35-33.5-5-4.

Consult The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Can We Tape?: Indiana for more on Indiana wiretapping law.

Indiana Law on Recording Court Hearings and Public Meetings

Court Hearings

You are permitted to use recording devices in the Indiana Supreme Court and in Indiana appellate court proceedings. For the Indiana Supreme Court, you must make a request twenty-four hours before the start of the proceedings. For Indiana appellate courts, you must make a request forty-eight hours before the start of the proceedings. (Note that all appellate oral arguments are also webcast live and are available on-line.)

As part of a pilot project that ended December 31, 2007, Indiana state trial courts allowed recording devices in court where both parties agreed. It is presently unclear whether this state of affairs will continue. Initial reports do not appear positive.

Federal courts in Indiana, both at the trial and appellate level, prohibit the use of sound and video recording devices in the courtroom.

For information on your right of access to court proceedings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of the guide.

Public Meetings

If you attend a public meeting (i.e., a meeting of a governmental body required to be open to the public by law) in Indiana, the presiding body may not prohibit you from making a sound recording. See Ind. Code § 5-14-1.5-3(a) (scroll down) (meetings of "governing bodies of public agencies must be open at all times for the purpose of permitting members of the public to observe and record them"). The precise status of video recording is less clear under the law, but in practice still photography and video recording are commonplace.

For information on your right of access to public meetings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of the guide and The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Open Government Guide: Indiana.

Massachusetts Recording Law

Note: This page covers information specific to Massachusetts. For general information concerning the use of recording devices see the Recording Phone Calls, Conversations, Meetings and Hearings section of this guide.

For additional information about engaging in journalism in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, please see our printable PDF guide Newsgathering in Massachusetts, co-produced with the Harvard Law School Cyberlaw Clinic.

Massachusetts Wiretapping Law

Massachusetts's wiretapping law often referred to is a "two-party consent" law. More accurately, Massachusetts makes it a crime to secretly record a conversation, whether the conversation is in-person or taking place by telephone or another medium. See Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 272, § 99. Accordingly, if you are operating in Massachusetts, you should always inform all parties to a telephone call or conversation that you are recording, unless it is absolutely clear to everyone involved that you are recording (i.e., the recording is not "secret"). Under Massachusetts's wiretapping law, if a party to a conversation is aware that you are recording and does not want to be recorded, it is up to that person to leave the conversation.

This law applies to secret video recording when sound is captured. In a 2007 case, a political activist was convicted of violating the wiretapping statute by secretly recording video of a Boston University police sergeant during a political protest in 2006. The activist was shooting footage of the protest when police ordered him to stop and then arrested him for continuing to operate the camera while hiding it in his coat. As part of the sentencing, the court ordered the defendant to remove the footage from the Internet. From this case, it appears that you can violate the statute by secretly recording, even when you are in a public place. However, in a 2011 case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit held that recording police activity in public is independently protected by the First Amendment, and that it is unconstitutional for the state to prosecute those recording the police in public under Massachusetts's wiretapping law; this ruling might protect secret as well as open recordings.

In addition to subjecting you to criminal prosecution, violating the Massachusetts wiretapping law can expose you to a civil lawsuit for damages by an injured party.

Consult The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Can We Tape?: Massachusetts for more information on Massachusetts wiretapping law.

Massachusetts Law on Recording Court Hearings and Public Meetings

Court Hearings

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Rule 1:19 says that judges should "permit broadcasting, televising, electronic recording, or taking photographs of proceedings open to the public in the courtroom by the news media for news gathering purposes and dissemination of information to the public," with certain limitations.  Members of the media must make a request to the court a reasonable time in advance of the proceeding. Courts generally do not allow recording devices in certain types of sensitive cases, and the judge retains the discretion to limit the use of recording devices to preserve the decorum of the court and the fairness of the proceeding.  See this Massachusetts Bar Association post for details. Supreme Judicial Court oral arguments are webcast and archived online.

Federal courts in Massachusetts, at both the trial and appellate level, prohibit recording devices and cameras in the courtroom.

For information on your right of access to court proceedings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of the guide.

Public Meetings

Massachusetts open meetings law expressly permits sound and video recording of public meetings (i.e., meetings of a governmental body required to be open to the public by law), except for executive sessions, by anyone in attendance. The statute provides that:

After notifying the chair of the public body, any person may make a video or audio recording of an open session of a meeting of a public body, or may transmit the meeting through any medium, subject to reasonable requirements of the chair as to the number, placement and operation of equipment used so as not to interfere with the conduct of the meeting. At the beginning of the meeting the chair shall inform other attendees of any such recordings.

See Mass. Gen. Laws. ch. 30A, § 20(e).

For information on your right of access to public meetings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of the guide and The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Open Government Guide: Massachusetts.

Michigan Recording Law

Note: This page covers information specific to Michigan. For general information concerning the use of recording devices see the Recording Phone Calls, Conversations, Meetings and Hearings section of this guide.

Michigan Wiretapping Law

Michigan law makes it a crime to "use[] any device to eavesdrop upon [a] conversation without the consent of all parties."  Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.539c.  This looks like an "all party consent" law, but one Michigan Court has ruled that a participant in a private conversation may record it without violating the statute because the statutory term "eavesdrop" refers only to overhearing or recording the private conversations of others.  See Sullivan v. Gray, 342 N.W. 2d 58, 60-61 (Mich. Ct. App. 1982).  The Michigan Supreme Court has not yet ruled on this question, so it is not clear whether you may record a conversation or phone call if you are a party to it. But, if you plan on recording a conversation to which you are not a party, you must get the consent of all parties to that conversation. In addition, if you intend to record conversations involving people located in more than one state, you should play it safe and get the consent of all parties. 

Michigan law also makes it a crime to "install, place, or use in any private place, without the consent of the person or persons entitled to privacy in that place, any device for observing, recording, transmitting, photographing, or eavesdropping upon the sounds or events in that place." Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.539d. The law defines a "private place" as a place where a person "may reasonably expect to be safe from casual or hostile intrusion or surveillance but does not include a place to which the public or substantial group of the public has access." Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.539a. You should always avoid these kinds of surveillance tactics.

Michigan law also prohibits you from "us[ing] or divulg[ing] any information which [you] know[] or reasonably should know was obtained in violation of the other wiretapping laws.  Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.539e.  To the extent this statute forbids you from publishing truthful information on a matter of public concern provided to you by a third-party (when you had no role in the wiretapping), it is probably unconstitutional. See Bartnicki v. Vopper, 532 U.S. 514 (2001).

In addition to subjecting you to criminal prosecution, violating these provisions can expose you to a civil lawsuit for money damages by an injured party.

Consult the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Can We Tape?: Michigan for more information on Michigan wiretapping law.

Michigan Law on Recording Court Hearings and Public Meetings

Court Hearings

Michigan law generally allows sound and video recording of state court proceedings, but you must request permission from the presiding judge at least three business days beforehand. The court has discretion to terminate or prohibit recording if it determines that it would be in the interests of justice. For instance, the court may exclude recordings of particularly sensitive witnesses or testimony involving confidential business information.

Federal courts in Michigan, at both the trial and appellate level, prohibit recording devices and cameras in the courtroom.

For information on your right of access to court proceedings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of this guide.

Public Meetings

When you attend a public meeting (i.e., a meeting of a governmental body required to be open to the public by law), Michigan law gives you the right to make video and sound recordings of the meeting and to broadcast live. The exercise of this right is not dependent on prior approval by the public body, but the public body may establish reasonable rules and regulations to avoid disruption of meetings. Mich. Comp. Laws § 15.263(1).

For information on your right of access to public meetings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of this guide and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Open Government Guide: Michigan.

Missouri Recording Law

Note: This page covers information specific to Missouri. For general information concerning the use of recording devices see the Recording Phone Calls, Conversations, Meetings and Hearings section of this guide.

Missouri Wiretapping Law

Missouri's wiretapping law is a "one-party consent" law. Missouri makes it a crime to intercept or record any "wire, oral, or electronic communication" unless one party to the conversation consents. See Mo. Rev. Stat. § 542.402.2. Therefore, if you operate in Missouri, you may record a conversation or phone call if you are a party to the conversation or you get prior consent from one party to the conversation, unless you are doing so to commit a criminal or tortious act. Nevertheless, if you intend to record conversations involving people located in Missouri and another state, you should play it safe and abide by the recording law of the most restrictive state involved.

Missouri's law criminalizes recording and attempting to record any wire or oral communications. See Mo. Rev. Stat. § 542.402.1. The statute defines "wire communications" as those made "in whole or in part through the use of "wire, cable, or other like connection between the point of origin and the point of reception." See Mo. Rev. Stat. § 542.400(12). If at least one party in a converation is using a wired device, this statute is applicable; however, communications entirely between cordless phones receiving radio signals are not protected by Missouri's wiretapping law. See State v. Martinelli, 972 S.W.2d 424 (Mo.App. E.D.1998); State v. King, 873 S.W.2d 905 (Mo.App. S.D.1994). Missouri also prohibits the disclosure or use of the contents of any wire communication obtained in violation of this section. See Mo. Rev. Stat. § 542.402.1.

This law only extends to oral communications which are "uttered by a person exhibiting an expectation that such communication is not subject to interception under circumstances justifying such expectation." See Mo. Rev. Stat. § 542.400(8). Therefore, you may be able to record in-person conversations occurring in a public place where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy without consent.

Violation of the Missouri law is a class D felony, punishable by imprisonment and fine. See Mo. Rev. Stat. § 542.402.1. In addition to subjecting you to criminal prosecution, violating the Missouri wiretapping law can expose you to a civil lawsuit for damages by an injured party. See Mo. Rev. Stat. § 542.418.

Consult the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Can We Tape?: Missouri for more information on Missouri wiretapping law. 

Missouri Law on Recording Court Hearings and Public Meetings

Court Hearings

Media coverage is allowed in Missouri state courts with the permission of the presiding judge. See Court Operating Rule 16. Media coverage is explicitly denied in any court proceeding that is required to be held in private under Missouri law, as well as juvenile, adoption, domestic relations, or child custody hearings. See C.O.R. 16.02. Equipment and personnel are limited to one still photographer with two cameras and two lenses, one television camera and camera operator, and one audio system. See C.O.R. 16.04. For additional information, please refer to the Missouri Supreme Court's Cameras in the Courtroom: A Guide to Missouri's Court Operating Rule 16.

Federal courts in Missouri, at both the trial and appellate level, typically prohibit phones, recording devices, and cameras in the courtroom. There is a limited exception to this rule for civil cases in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri participating in the Cameras in the Courtroom Pilot Project issued by the Judicial Conference of the United States. See Local Rule 13.02.

For information on your right of access to court proceedings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of this guide.

Public Meetings

Missouri law provides for "the recording by audiotape, videotape, or other electronic means of any open meeting," though the public body may establish guidelines regarding the manner of recording in order to minimize disruption. See Mo. Rev. Stat. § 610.020.3. However, a closed meeting cannot be recorded without the permission of the public body; doing so without permission amounts to a Class C misdemeanor. See Mo. Rev. Stat. § 610.020.3.

For information on your right of access to public meetings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of the guide and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Open Government Guide: Missouri.

New Jersey Recording Law

Note: This page covers information specific to New Jersey. For general information concerning the use of recording devices see the Recording Phone Calls, Conversations, Meetings and Hearings section of this guide.

New Jersey Wiretapping Law

New Jersey's wiretapping law is a "one-party consent" law. New Jersey makes it a crime to intercept or record an in-person or telephone conversation unless one party to the conversation consents. N.J. Stat. §§ 2A:156A-3, -4. (link is to the entire code; you need to click through to Title 2A, Article 156A, and then locate the specific provisions). Thus, if you operate in New Jersey, you may record a conversation or phone call if you are a party to the conversation or you get permission from one party to the conversation in advance. That said, if you intend to record conversations involving people located in more than one state, you should play it safe and get the consent of all parties.

In addition to subjecting you to criminal prosecution, violating the New Jersey wiretapping law can expose you to a civil lawsuit for damages by an injured party.

Consult the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Can We Tape?: New Jersey for more information on New Jersey wiretapping law.

New Jersey Law on Recording Court Hearings and Public Meetings

Court Hearings

New Jersey law places restrictions on your ability to make sound and video recordings in state courtrooms. First, the New Jersey Supreme Court guidelines permit audio and video recording for future broadcast only by those with "bona fide press credentials" issued by the New Jersey Press Association or those with identification from a "bona fide media outlet," defined as an "organization that reports the news and whose news reports are made available to the general public by being published or broadcast on a regular schedule by television, radio, retail sales, or by subscription where there is no membership or dues requirement to subscribe." This could present a substantial obstacle for amateur and other non-traditional journalists and online publishers. Second, you must make a request for permission a reasonable time in advance, and the court may limit media coverage where it has the potential to harm parties or witnesses. You may, however, appeal any denial of coverage to a state appellate court (if coverage was denied by a district court) or to the State Supreme Court (if coverage was denied by an appellate court). Recording devices are prohibited in certain particularly sensitive types of proceedings, such as those involving juveniles. In addition, the court may place restrictions on the number of cameras allowed into a courtroom at a particular time. For more detailed information, please consult the Supreme Court Guidelines for Still and Television Camera and Audio Coverage of Proceedings in The Courts of New Jersey.

Federal courts in New Jersey, at both the trial and appellate level, prohibit recording devices and cameras in the courtroom.

For information on your right of access to court proceedings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of the guide.

Public Meetings

New Jersey law allows sound and video recording devices in public meetings (i.e., meetings of a governmental body required to be open to the public by law), subject to reasonable restrictions, such as advance notice, that generally track those imposed in state courtrooms (above).

For information on your right of access to public meetings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of the guide and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Open Government Guide: New Jersey.

New York Recording Law

Note: This page covers information specific to New York. For general information concerning the use of recording devices see the Recording Phone Calls, Conversations, Meetings and Hearings section of this guide.

New York Wiretapping Law

New York's wiretapping law is a "one-party consent" law. New York makes it a crime to record to record or eavesdrop on an in-person or telephone conversation unless one party to the conversation consents. N.Y. Penal Law §§ 250.00, 250.05. (link is to the entire code, you need to click on the Penal Code section, then choose Article 250 and locate the specific provisions). Thus, if you operate in New York, you may record a conversation or phone call if you are a party to the conversation or you get permission from one party to the conversation in advance. That said, if you intend to record conversations involving people located in more than one state, you should play it safe and get the consent of all parties.

Consult the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Can We Tape?: New York for more information on New York wiretapping law.

New York Law on Recording Court Hearings and Public Meetings

Court Hearings

New York state appellate courts permit recording subject to the approval of the particular court. Only two television cameras and two still cameras are allowed in the courtroom at any given time. New York trial courts do not allow recording devices in courtrooms.

Federal appellate courts in the Second Circuit, which encompasses New York, permit sound and video recordings of oral arguments under certain circumstances. The Second Circuit does not permit recording of criminal matters, but "any person or entity regularly engaged in the gathering and dissemination of news" may record oral arguments in civil cases if they notify the calendar clerk no later than noon two days prior to the proceeding. The presiding judges have the discretion to exclude the media from the courtroom, and there are limitations on the number of cameras that will be allowed at any time. Recording devices are not permitted in federal district courts in New York.

For information on your right of access to court proceedings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of the guide.

Public Meetings

New York courts have held that persons attending a public meeting (i.e., a meeting of a governmental body required to be open to the public by law) have a right to tape or video record the meeting in an unobtrusive way. This does not mean that a governmental body holding a meeting cannot impose restrictions on the use of recording devices, but it may not ban such devices altogether.

For information on your right of access to public meetings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of this guide and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Open Government Guide: New York.

North Carolina Recording Law

Note: This page covers information specific to North Carolina. For general information concerning the use of recording devices see the Recording Phone Calls, Conversations, Meetings and Hearings section of this guide.

North Carolina Wiretapping Law

North Carolina's wiretapping law is a "one-party consent" law. North Carolina makes it a crime to intercept or record any "wire, oral, or electronic communication" unless one party to the conversation consents. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-287. Thus, if you operate in North Carolina, you may record a conversation or phone call if you are a party to the conversation or you get permission from one party to the conversation in advance. That said, if you intend to record conversations involving people located in more than one state, you should play it safe and get the consent of all parties.

In addition to subjecting you to criminal prosecution, violating the North Carolina wiretapping law can expose you to a civil lawsuit for damages by an injured party. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-296.

Consult the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Can We Tape?: North Carolina for more information on North Carolina wiretapping law.

North Carolina Law on Recording Court Hearings and Public Meetings

Court Hearings

You may use a tape recorder in North Carolina state courtrooms if you obtain the permission of the presiding judge. You may use other recording devices, such as cameras, if you get the permission of the judge and keep them partitioned away from and unobserved by participants in the courtroom. The presiding judge may waive this requirement in certain cases. Only two video cameras and one still photographer are allowed in the court room at a given time, and coverage of certain types of sensitive cases (e.g., trade secrets cases, divorce cases) is prohibited.

Federal courts in North Carolina, at both the trial and appellate level, prohibit recording devices and cameras in the courtroom.

For information on your right of access to court proceedings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of the guide.

Public Meetings

North Carolina law gives you the right to make sound and video recordings of public meetings (i.e., meetings of a governmental body required to be open to the public by law). The governmental body may "regulate the placement and use of equipment necessary for broadcasting, photographing, filming, or recording a meeting, so as to prevent undue interference with the meeting," but the body must allow equipment to be placed within the meeting room so as to permit its intended use, and "the ordinary use of such equipment shall not be declared to constitute undue interference." N.C. Gen. Stat. § 143-318.14.

For information on your right of access to public meetings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of the guide and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Open Government Guide: North Carolina.

Ohio Recording Law

Note: This page covers information specific to Ohio. For general information concerning the use of recording devices see the Recording Phone Calls, Conversations, Meetings and Hearings section of this guide.

Ohio Wiretapping Law

Ohio's wiretapping law is a "one-party consent" law. Ohio law makes it a crime to intercept or record any "wire, oral, or electronic communication" unless one party to the conversation consents. Ohio Rev. Code § 2933.52. Thus, if you operate in Ohio, you may record a conversation or phone call if you are a party to the conversation or you get permission from one party to the conversation in advance. That said, if you intend to record conversations involving people located in more than one state, you should play it safe and get the consent of all parties.

Additionally, consent is not required for oral communications (e.g., in-person conversations) where the speakers does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the communication. See Ohio Rev. Code § 2933.51. This means that you are free to record a conversation happening between two people in a public place such as a street or a restaurant, so long as you are not using sensitive recording equipment to pick up what you otherwise would not hear.

In addition to subjecting you to criminal prosecution, violating the Ohio wiretapping law can expose you to a civil lawsuit for damages by an injured party.

Consult the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Can We Tape?: Ohio for more information on Ohio wiretapping law.

Ohio Law on Recording Court Hearings and Public Meetings

Court Hearings

Ohio state courts generally allow the use of recording devices, but impose a number of important restrictions. Most importantly, witnesses and victims of crimes have a right to object to recording in state trial courts. If a witness or victim objects, the court will prohibit recording. In addition, you must get the consent of the presiding judge in advance, and the judge may impose limits on the number of recording devices in the courtroom at any given time. Courts may also establish their own local rules regarding recording devices.

Federal courts in Ohio, at both the trial and appellate level, prohibit recording devices and cameras in the courtroom.

For information on your right of access to court proceedings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of the guide.

Public Meetings

While the Ohio open records law does not specifically state whether you can use recording devices at a public meeting (i.e., a meeting of a governmental body required to be open to the public by law), the Ohio Attorney General has an issued an opinion stating that using them is permissible when it does not unduly interfere with the meeting. As a matter of practice, recording devices apparently are common in Ohio public meetings.

For information on your right of access to public meetings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of the guide and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Open Government Guide: Ohio.

Pennsylvania Recording Law

Note: This page covers information specific to Pennsylvania. For general information concerning the use of recording devices see the Recording Phone Calls, Conversations, Meetings and Hearings section of this guide.

Pennsylvania Wiretapping Law

Pennsylvania's wiretapping law is a "two-party consent" law. Pennsylvania makes it a crime to intercept or record a telephone call or conversation unless all parties to the conversation consent. See 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5703 (link is to the entire code, choose Title 18, Part II, Article F, Chapter 57, Subchapter B, and then the specific provision).

The law does not cover oral communications when the speakers do not have an "expectation that such communication is not subject to interception under circumstances justifying such expectation." See 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5702 (link is to the entire code, choose Title 18, Part II, Article F, Chapter 57, Subchapter A, and then the specific provision). Therefore, you may be able to record in-person conversations occurring in a public place without consent. However, you should always get the consent of all parties before recording any conversation that common sense tells you is private.

In addition to subjecting you to criminal prosecution, violating the Pennsylvania wiretapping law can expose you to a civil lawsuit for damages by an injured party.

Consult the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Can We Tape?: Pennsylvania for more information on Pennsylvania wiretapping law.

Pennsylvania Law on Recording Court Hearings and Public Meetings

Court Hearings

Pennsylvania state courts generally prohibit the use of recording devices in the courtroom, both at the trial and appellate court level. However, individual judges may authorize recordings of non-jury civil trials, if both parties to the lawsuit consent. In that case, individual witnesses may object to recording and be excluded from coverage. Local courts may also establish additional rules.

Federal courts in Pennsylvania, at both the trial and appellate level, prohibit recording devices and cameras in the courtroom.

For information on your right of access to court proceedings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of this guide.

Public Meetings

Recording devices are allowed in public meetings (i.e., meetings of a governmental body required to be open to the public by law) in Pennsylvania. Governmental bodies may adopt their own rules to maintain order at their meetings, but those rules may not include flat prohibitions on recording.

For information on your right of access to public meetings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of the guide and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Open Government Guide: Pennsylvania.

Tennessee Recording Law

Note: This page covers information specific to Tennessee. For general information concerning the use of recording devices see the Recording Phone Calls, Conversations, Meetings and Hearings section of this guide.

Tennessee's wiretapping law is a "one-party consent" law. Tennessee makes it a crime to intentionally intercept any wire, oral or "electronic communication" to overhear or record a phone call or conversation unless one party consents to the conversation. The law defines an "electronic communication" as "any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by the aid of wire, radio, electromagnetic, photooptical or photoelectronic facilities." Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-6-303. If you are operating in Tennessee, you should always get the consent of at least one party before recording an in-person conversation or telephone call. In addition to subjecting you to criminal prosecution, violating the Tennessee wiretapping statute can expose you to a civil lawsuit for actual damages, punitive damages, and  reasonable attorney's fees, by an injured party. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-603.

While you generally are permitted to photograph or record video of people without permission in most public places, it is illegal to photograph a person when that individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy if that photograph would "offend or embarass an ordinary person" or if the photograph was taken for the "purpose of sexual arousal or gratificaiton of the defendant." Tenn. Code Ann. §39-13-605.

Consult The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Can We Tape?: Tennessee for more information on Illinois wiretapping lawyer.

Law on Recording Court Hearings and Public Meetings

Court Hearings

Tennessee law permits the use of still photography and audio and video recording devices in "any trial, hearing, argument on appeal, or other matter held in open court that the public is entittled to attend." Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 30(B)(3). Consent of the parties is not required except for juvenile court proceedings. A media request should be submitted two days before the proceeding and these requests are subject to limitations imposed by the presiding judge. One such limitation is that of "pooling" in which a single media representative is permitted into the court on behalf of a number of media organizations; in a "pooling" circumstance, the media will select its representative to act as a liason for the proceeding. Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 30(F)(2).

For information on your right of access to court proceedings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of the guide.

Public Meetings

Tennessee's open meeting laws require that all government meetings are open to the public at all times. Tenn. Code. Ann. § 8-44-102. While Tennessee does not have any provision related to the broadcasting of these meetings, the Tennessee law dictates that all minutes of a government meeting must be promptly and fully recorded. Tenn. Code Ann. § 8-44-104.

For information on your right of access to public meetings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of the guide and The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Open Government Guide: Tennessee.

Texas Recording Law

Note: This page covers information specific to Texas. For general information concerning the use of recording devices see the Recording Phone Calls, Conversations, Meetings and Hearings section of this guide.

Texas Wiretapping Law

Texas's wiretapping law is a "one-party consent" law. Texas makes it a crime to intercept or record any "wire, oral, or electronic communication" unless one party to the conversation consents. Texas Penal Code § 16.02. Therefore, if you operate in Texas, you may record a conversation or phone call if you are a party to the conversation or you get permission from one party to the conversation in advance. That said, if you intend to record conversations involving people located in more than one state, you should play it safe and get the consent of all parties.

The law does not cover oral communications when the speakers do not have an "expectation that such communication is not subject to interception under circumstances justifying such expectation." See Texas Crim. Proc. Code § 18.20. Therefore, you may be able to record in-person conversations occurring in a public place, such as a street or a restaurant, without consent.

In addition to subjecting you to criminal prosecution, violating the wiretapping law can expose you to a civil lawsuit for damages by an injured party. Texas Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 123.002.

Consult the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Can We Tape?: Texas for more information on Texas wiretapping law.

Texas Law on Recording Court Hearings and Public Meetings

Court Hearings

Texas law permits sound and video recording of state appellate proceedings, if you submit a request five days before the proceeding. These requests are subject to limitations imposed by the presiding judge. In state trial courts, use of sound and video recording devices is permitted with the consent of the trial judge, the parties, and each witness to be recorded. Additionally, a number of local rules imposing additional or different limitations apply in particular courts.

Federal courts in Texas, at both the trial and appellate level, prohibit recording devices and cameras in the courtroom.

For information on your right of access to court proceedings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of this guide.

Public Meetings

Sound and video recording devices may be used at public meetings (i.e., meetings of a governmental body required to be open to the public by law) in Texas, although the agency or other governmental body holding the meeting may impose "reasonable rules to maintain order at a meeting." Texas Gov't Code § 551.023(b).

For information on your right of access to public meetings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of the guide and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Open Government Guide: Texas.

Virginia Recording Law

Note: This page covers information specific to Virginia. For general information concerning the use of recording devices see the Recording Phone Calls, Conversations, Meetings and Hearings section of this guide.

Virginia Wiretapping Law

Virginia's wiretapping law is a "one-party consent" law. Virginia makes it a crime to intercept or record any "wire, oral, or electronic communication" unless one party to the conversation consents. Virginia Code § 19.2-62. Therefore, if you operate in Virginia, you may record a conversation or phone call if you are a party to the conversation or you get permission from one party to the conversation in advance. That said, if you intend to record conversations involving people located in more than one state, you should abide by the recording law of the most restrictive state involved, or play it safe and get the consent of all parties.

The wiretapping law covers oral communications when the speakers have an "expectation that such communication is not subject to interception under circumstances justifying such expectations," Virginia Code § 19.2-61, But absent the speakers' justified expecation, the law does not apply. See Belmer v. Commonwealth. Therefore, you may be able to record in-person conversations occurring in a public place, such as a street or restaurant, without consent. However, you should seek the consent of one or all of the parties before recording any conversation that an ordinary person would deem private.

Violation of the Virginia law is a felony, punishable by imprisonment and fine. See Virginia Code § 18.2-10 for more details. In addition, while recording a telephone conversation with the consent of only one party is legal in Virginia, a lawyer’s recording of a telephone conversation without the consent of all parties was found to be unethical under the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct (United States v. Smallwood).

In addition to subjecting you to criminal prosecution, violating the Virginia wiretapping law can expose you to a civil lawsuit for damages by an injured party. See Virginia Code § 19.2-69.

Virginia Law on Recording Court Hearings and Public Meetings

Court Hearings

Recording is allowed in Virginia state courtrooms at the sole discretion of the presiding judge. It is, however, flatly prohibited in certain types of sensitive cases (e.g., those involving juveniles or sexual offenses; however, a juvenile who is tried as an adult is excluded from the prohibition on recording. See Novak v. Commonwealth, 20 Va. App. 373, 390-91 (1995)). Only two television cameras and one still photographer are allowed in a courtroom at any given time. For a complete list of the statutory guidelines, see Va. Code 19.2-266.

Federal courts in Virginia, at both the trial and appellate level, prohibit recording devices and cameras in the courtroom.

For information on your right of access to court proceedings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of this guide.

Public Meetings

Virginia open meetings law provides that any person may "photograph, film, record or otherwise reproduce any portion of a meeting required to be open." However, the public body conducting the meeting "may adopt rules governing the placement and use of equipment necessary for broadcasting, photographing, filming or recording a meeting to prevent interference with the proceedings." Virginia Code § 2.2-3707(H). But the adopted rules may not "prohibit or otherwise prevent any person from photographing, filming, recording, or otherwise reproducing any portion of a meeting required to be open," and "[n]o public body shall conduct a meeting required to be open in any building or facility where such recording devices are prohibited." Virginia Code § 2.2-3707(H).

For information on your right of access to public meetings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of the guide and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Open Government Guide: Virginia.

Washington Recording Law

Note: This page covers information specific to Washington. For general information concerning the use of recording devices see the Recording Phone Calls, Conversations, Meetings and Hearings section of this guide.

Washington Wiretapping Law

Washington's wiretapping law is a "two-party consent" law. Washington makes it a crime to intercept or record a private telephone call, in-person conversation, or electronic communication unless all parties to the communication consent. See Wash. Rev. Code § 9.73.030(1). Whether a conversation or other communications is "private" depends on a number of case-specific factors, such as the subjective intention of the parties, the reasonableness of their expectation that the conversation would be private, the location of the conversation, and whether third parties were present. State v. Townsend, 57 P.3d 255, 259 (Wash. 2002). You should always get the consent of all parties before recording any conversation that common sense tells you is private.

In Washington, you can satisfy the consent requirement by "announc[ing] to all other parties engaged in the communication or conversation, in any reasonably effective manner, that such communication or conversation is about to be recorded or transmitted," so long as this announcement is also recorded. Wash. Rev. Code § 9.73.030(3). In addition, an employee of a "regularly published newspaper, magazine, wire service, radio station, or television station acting in the course of bona fide news gathering duties on a full-time or contractual or part-time basis" can establish the consent of the party recorded even without an announcement if he or she uses a recording or transmitting device that is "readily apparent or obvious to the speakers." Wash. Rev. Code § 9.73.030(4).

The language of this consent provision suggests that it probably does not apply to an employee of an online publication or a non-professional journalist who is not employed by a media outlet on a full-time, part-time, or contractual basis. This limitation may be of little importance, however, because Washington courts have held -- in a non-media context -- that a person will be deemed to have consented to having his or her communication recorded when he or she conveys a message knowing that it will be recorded. See In re Marriage of Farr, 940 P.2d 679 (Wash. App. 1997) (speaker consented when leaving a message on a telephone answering machine, the only function of which is to record messages); Townsend, 57 P.3d at 260 (person sending email consented to its recording because he "had to understand that computers are, among other things, a message recording device and that his e-mail messages would be recorded on the computer of the person to whom the message was sent").

In addition to subjecting you to criminal prosecution, violating the wiretapping law can expose you to a civil lawsuit for damages by an injured party. See Wash. Rev. Code § 9.73.060.

Consult the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Can We Tape?: Washington for more information on Washington wiretapping law.

Washington Law on Recording Court Hearings and Public Meetings

Court Hearings

Washington state courts generally permit the use of recording devices in the courtroom, although the presiding judge must give express permission before recording and may impose limitations when it would be distracting to the participants or impair the dignity of the proceedings. In 1963, Washington State lawyers, judges, and members of the press formed the Bench-Bar-Press Committee, which seeks to foster better relationships between the bench and the press. The Committee publishes an annual report that may be of interest.

Federal courts in Washington are part of the Ninth Circuit. In Ninth Circuit appellate proceedings, cameras and recording devices are permitted at the discretion of the presiding panel of judges. To get permission, you need to file an Application for Permission to Photograph, Record, or Broadcast from the Courtroom three days in advance, although the panel can waive the advance notice requirement. Recording devices and cameras generally are prohibited in federal district courts in Washington.

For information on your right of access to court proceedings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of the guide.

Public Meetings

Washington law allows you to use sound and video recording devices at public meetings (i.e., meetings of a governmental body required to be open to the public by law), unless they disrupt the orderly conduct of the meeting.

For information on your right of access to public meetings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of this guide and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Open Government Guide: Washington.