The Legal High Points of Recording Conversations

Ah, the things people say. It can either get us in trouble, or it can help us. It just depends on what’s going on. If you are in the middle of a series of conflicts with someone, it does become tempting to record them eventually. Or you might just like the sound of someone’s voice, and you want to capture it on a recording to make sure that you have it.

We all know about Watergate, the infamous case of recording gone wild in the White House during President Nixon’s time. However, that’s dealing with government. What you’re probably interested in is finding out whether or not it’s legal for you as a private citizen to record someone’s conversations with you.

Generally speaking, it is not legal for you to record a conversation that is mean tot be private. It’s an invasion of privacy, but there are exceptions to the rule. Some states only require that one person in the conversation gives consent for the conversation to be recorded. This means that if you’re talking to someone and you want to record the call, you can record the conversation. However, if you are talking with someone that lives in a state that requires all parties to consent to being recorded, you could be in trouble.

If you record a call without someone’s consent and their consent is required, then it’s an illegal recording and the person whose privacy you just violated can turn around and sue you. Of course, just the mere discovery that you recorded them can make them take you to court. Invading someone’s privacy is a serious matter, and many courts have sided with the person wronged.

It’s a civil lawsuit, not a criminal one, which means that you would probably have to pay some sort of damages. Of course, this also assumes that the act of recording hurt the other person in some way, which is something that they would have to prove.

You might have noticed a theme of privacy here — if a conversation can be reasonably assumed to be private, then it has special protection. Now, if you and a friend are out in public, and you are recording them for some reason, they can’t go back and really make too much fuss — if other people could hear the conversation, then it’s not really public anymore.

These are sticky issues that should be raised with an attorney experienced in the matter, if you want more than general information — be careful out there!