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
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.
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.