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
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.
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.