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.
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
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:
- The impact of coverage upon the right of any party to a fair trial;
- The impact of coverage upon the right of privacy of any party or witness;
- The impact of coverage upon the safety and well-being of any party, witness or juror;
- The likelihood that coverage would distract participants or would detract from the dignity of the proceedings;
- The adequacy of the physical facilities of the court for coverage;
- The timeliness of the request pursuant to subsection (f) of this Rule; and
- 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.
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.