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.


Subject Area: