Tennessee Recording Law

Note: This page covers information specific to Tennessee. For general information concerning the use of recording devices see the Recording Phone Calls, Conversations, Meetings and Hearings section of this guide.

Tennessee's wiretapping law is a "one-party consent" law. Tennessee makes it a crime to intentionally intercept any wire, oral or "electronic communication" to overhear or record a phone call or conversation unless one party consents to the conversation. The law defines an "electronic communication" as "any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by the aid of wire, radio, electromagnetic, photooptical or photoelectronic facilities." Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-6-303. If you are operating in Tennessee, you should always get the consent of at least one party before recording an in-person conversation or telephone call. In addition to subjecting you to criminal prosecution, violating the Tennessee wiretapping statute can expose you to a civil lawsuit for actual damages, punitive damages, and  reasonable attorney's fees, by an injured party. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-603.

While you generally are permitted to photograph or record video of people without permission in most public places, it is illegal to photograph a person when that individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy if that photograph would "offend or embarass an ordinary person" or if the photograph was taken for the "purpose of sexual arousal or gratificaiton of the defendant." Tenn. Code Ann. §39-13-605.

Consult The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Can We Tape?: Tennessee for more information on Illinois wiretapping lawyer.

Law on Recording Court Hearings and Public Meetings

Court Hearings

Tennessee law permits the use of still photography and audio and video recording devices in "any trial, hearing, argument on appeal, or other matter held in open court that the public is entittled to attend." Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 30(B)(3). Consent of the parties is not required except for juvenile court proceedings. A media request should be submitted two days before the proceeding and these requests are subject to limitations imposed by the presiding judge. One such limitation is that of "pooling" in which a single media representative is permitted into the court on behalf of a number of media organizations; in a "pooling" circumstance, the media will select its representative to act as a liason for the proceeding. Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 30(F)(2).

For information on your right of access to court proceedings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of the guide.

Public Meetings

Tennessee's open meeting laws require that all government meetings are open to the public at all times. Tenn. Code. Ann. § 8-44-102. While Tennessee does not have any provision related to the broadcasting of these meetings, the Tennessee law dictates that all minutes of a government meeting must be promptly and fully recorded. Tenn. Code Ann. § 8-44-104.

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: Tennessee.


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