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'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 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.
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.