Recording Phone Calls, Conversations, Meetings And Hearings | The First Amendment Right To Record Police And Public Officials!

Recording Phone Calls, Conversations, Meetings and Hearings

Using a recording device, such as a microphone, video recorder, or camera, is often a helpful way to capture and preserve information about conversations, interviews, and phone calls in which you participate. It is also a good way to document what takes place in a court hearing or public meeting, whether for personal reference or later broadcast over the Internet.

Where you do your recording, and what you record, will largely dictate what legal limitations apply to your recording activities.  It may also be the case (in fact, it is quite likely) that more than one set of laws or limitations might apply to your use of recording equipment.  Before concluding that your activities are in the clear, you should read all of the sections listed below that might apply, as well as the section on Gathering Private Information elsewhere in this guide.

If you plan to record the conversations of others, whether they occur in person or over the telephone, you should review the section on Recording Phone Calls and Conversations.  This section discusses federal and state wiretapping statutes that make it a crime to record telephone calls and private conversations in many circumstances. Keep in mind that conduct that could lead to criminal and civil liability under federal and state wiretapping statutes could also lead to possible liability for intrusion. Please refer to the state-specific sections of this guide to get a more in-depth overview of the wiretapping laws in the fifteen most populous U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

If you plan to record the activities of the police or other public officials, First Amendment considerations might override state laws that prohibit recording without consent. See the section on Recording Police Officers and Public Officials for more information.

If you plan to use a recording device at a public meeting or court hearing, you should review the section on Recording Public Meetings and Court Hearings, which looks at the laws affecting your ability to make sound and video recordings and to take photographs in these quasi-public settings. Because laws vary greatly state-by-state, be sure to consult the state-specific sections  of this guide for detailed information on the laws regarding use of recording devices at court hearings and public meetings. For more information on your general right to be present at court hearings and public meetings, please see the Access to Government Information section of this guide.

If you plan to take photographs, video, or audio of people engaged in private activities in places where they reasonably expect to be private, you should also read the section on Gathering Private Information in this guide.  Various privacy laws could subject you to liability in this context, so you should proceed with caution if you will be recording private activities.

Once you’ve reviewed the other sections and are prepared to proceed, you should carefully review the section on Practical Tips for Recording Phone Calls, Conversations, Meetings, and Hearings.  This section provides some practical guidelines for using recording devices, which should help you steer clear of legal trouble.

Browse any of the sections below to get started:

 

 

 

Recording Phone Calls and Conversations

If you plan to record telephone calls or in-person conversations (including by recording video that captures sound), you should be aware that there are federal and state wiretapping laws that may limit your ability to do so. These laws not only expose you to the risk of criminal prosecution, but also potentially give an injured party a civil claim for money damages against you.

From a legal standpoint, the most important question in the recording context is whether you must get consent from one or all of the parties to a phone call or conversation before recording it. Federal law and many state wiretapping statutes permit recording if one party (including you) to the phone call or conversation consents. Other states require that all parties to the communication consent.

Unfortunately, it is not always easy to tell which law applies to a communication, especially a phone call. For example, if you and the person you are recording are in different states, then it is difficult to say in advance whether federal or state law applies, and if state law applies which of the two (or more) relevant state laws will control the situation. Therefore, if you record a phone call with participants in more than one state, it is best to play it safe and get the consent of all parties. However, when you and the person you are recording are both located in the same state, then you can rely with greater certainty on the law of that state. In some states, this will mean that you can record with the consent of one party to the communication. In others, you will still need to get everyone’s consent. For details on the wiretapping laws in the fifteen most populous U.S. states and the District of Columbia, see the State Law: Recording section. In any event, it never hurts to play it safe and get the consent of all parties to a phone call or conversation that you intend to record.

Who must give permission to record a telephone or in-person conversation?

Federal law permits recording telephone calls and in-person conversations with the consent of at least one of the parties. See 18 U.S.C. 2511(2)(d). This is called a “one-party consent” law. Under a one-party consent law, you can record a phone call or conversation so long as you are a party to the conversation. Furthermore, if you are not a party to the conversation, a “one-party consent” law will allow you to record the conversation or phone call so long as your source consents and has full knowledge that the communication will be recorded.

In addition to federal law, thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia have adopted “one-party consent” laws and permit individuals to record phone calls and conversations to which they are a party or when one party to the communication consents. See the State Law: Recording section of this legal guide for information on state wiretapping laws.

When must you get permission from everyone involved before recording?

Twelve states require the consent of every party to a phone call or conversation in order to make the recording lawful. These “two-party consent” laws have been adopted in California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington (Hawai’i is also in general a one-party state, but requires two-party consent if the recording device is installed in a private place). Although they are referred to as “two-party consent” laws, consent must be obtained from every party to a phone call or conversation if it involves more than two people.  In some of these states, it might be enough if all parties to the call or conversation know that you are recording and proceed with the communication anyway, even if they do not voice explicit consent.  See the State Law: Recording section of this legal guide for information on specific states’ wiretapping laws.

Can you record a phone call or conversation when you do not have consent from one of the parties?

Regardless of whether state or federal law governs the situation, it is almost always illegal to record a phone call or private conversation to which you are not a party, do not have consent from at least one party, and could not naturally overhear. In addition, federal and many state laws do not permit you to surreptitiously place a bug or recording device on a person or telephone, in a home, office or restaurant to secretly record a conversation between two people who have not consented.

Federal law and most state statutes also make disclosing the contents of an illegally intercepted telephone call illegal. See the section on Risks Associated with Publication in this guide for more information.

What if you are recording the activities of the police or other government officials in public?

Special considerations apply when recording police officers or other public officials.  You may have a constitutional right to openly record the activities of police and other officials in public, so long as you do not interfere with those activities or violate generally applicable laws.  For more information, see the section on Recording Police Officers and Public Officials.

Recording Police Officers and Public Officials

As discussed in other areas of this Guide, a patchwork of state laws applies to recording the communications of others, including wiretapping and eavesdropping laws. These laws may impose liability for recording audio of a conversation without the consent of one or more parties, or for making secret audio recordings.

However, First Amendment considerations arise when you are openly recording the activities of police officers (or other public officials) carrying out their duties in public places. A number of U.S. Courts of Appeals have held that, in such circumstances, the First Amendment protects the right to record audio and video regardless of whether the police/officials consent. This constitutional right would override any state or federal laws that would otherwise prohibit such recording.

Currently, the following U.S. Courts of Appeals have recognized the First Amendment right to record the police and/or other public officials:

  • First Circuit (with jurisdiction over  Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Puerto Rico, and Rhode Island): see Glik v. Cunniffe,  655 F.3d 78, 85 (1st Cir. 2011) (“[A] citizen’s right to film government officials, including law enforcement officers, in the discharge of their duties in a public space is a basic, vital, and well-established liberty safeguarded by the First Amendment.”); Iacobucci v. Boulter, 193 F.3d 14 (1st Cir. 1999) (police lacked authority to prohibit citizen from recording commissioners in town hall “because [the citizen's] activities were peaceful, not performed in derogation of any law, and done in the exercise of his First Amendment rights[.]“).
  • Seventh Circuit (with jurisdiction over Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin): see ACLU v. Alvarez, 679 F.3d 583, 595 (7th Cir. 2012) (“The act of making an audio or audiovisual recording is necessarily included within the First Amendment’s guarantee of speech and press rights as a corollary of the right to disseminate the resulting recording.”).
  • Ninth Circuit (with jurisdiction over Alaska, Arizona, California, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, the Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon, and Washington): see Fordyce v. City of Seattle, 55 F.3d 436, 438 (9th Cir. 1995) (assuming a First Amendment right to record the police); see also Adkins v. Limtiaco,  _ Fed. App’x _, No. 11-17543, 2013 WL 4046720 (9th Cir. Aug. 12, 2013) (recognizing First Amendment right to photograph police, citing Fordyce).
  • Eleventh Circuit (with jurisdiction over Alabama, Florida and Georgia): see Smith v. City of Cumming, 212 F.3d 1332, 1333 (11th Cir. 2000) (“The First Amendment protects the right to gather information about what public officials do on public property, and specifically, a right to record matters of public interest.”).

The Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey likewise recognized the existence of such a right in Ramos v. Flowers, Docket No. A-4910-10T3 (N.J. App. Div. Sept. 21, 2012), relying heavily on the First Circuit’s reasoning in the Glik case.

If you are recording in New Jersey  or in one of the states or territories within the First, Seventh, Ninth or Eleventh Circuits, the First Amendment right to record should protect you against prosecution for recording the police or other public officials as they carry out their duties in public places.

Even if you are not within these jurisdictions, these decisions may be persuasive to other courts. Although two other U.S. Courts of Appeals have declined to hold that a First Amendment right to record was “clearly established” as of particular dates in the past, see Kelly v. Borough of Carlisle, 622 F.3d 248, 261-62 (3rd Cir. 2010); Szymecki v. Houck, 353 Fed. App’x 852, 852 (4th Cir. 2009) (per curiam), none so far have rejected the existence of such a right.  Furthermore, the United States Department of Justice has openly stated its position that the First Amendment protects all U.S. citizens who record the activities of the police in public, and has intervened in at least one civil rights lawsuit against police officers to support that First Amendment right. See Sharp v. Baltimore City Police Dep’t, No. 1:11-cv-02888-BEL (D. Md. Statement of Interest filed January 10, 2012).

NOTE: The First Amendment right to record does NOT give you the right to interfere in the performance of officials’ duties, or violate generally applicable laws. You may still face criminal prosecution or civil liability if, while recording, you: interfere with an arrest; trespass into secure government areas or private property; fail to respond to legitimate measures by law enforcement to control riots or disturbances; or otherwise interfere with official activity or violate private rights.

Recording Public Meetings and Court Hearings

Public Meetings

Generally speaking, when you attend a public meeting of a government body that is required to be open to the public by law, you are free to record that meeting through note-taking, sound and video recording devices, and photography, so long as the method of recording used is reasonable and not disruptive. Your ability to do so, however, is based largely on state open meetings laws, and the details of these laws vary significantly. At least one court has held that there is no federal constitutional right to make a video recording of an open meeting, at least not when other methods are available for compiling a record of the proceeding, such as written and stenographic notes or audiotaping. Whiteland Woods, LLP v. Township of W. Whiteland, 193 F.3d 177 (3rd Cir. 1999). Government bodies may therefore place reasonable restrictions on the use recording devices, including a ban on certain devices, in order to preserve the orderly conduct of its meetings.

For information on your right of access to the meetings of government bodies, please consult the Access to Government Information section of the guide and the Open Government Guide prepared by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

Even when no state open meetings law affirmatively gives you the right to record, many state statutes permit the recording of speeches and conversations that take place where the parties may reasonably expect to be recorded. If you are attending a meeting that is open to the public, it is likely that the people running a meeting or giving a speech should reasonably assume that they might be recorded. However, you should always take reasonable steps to make clear that you are recording. Concealing your camera or recording equipment is not a good idea.

For state-specific information about using recording equipment in public meetings, see the State Law: Recording section.

Court Hearings

The law regarding the use of audio and video recording devices in court hearings varies a great deal based on the state. In Chandler v. Florida, 449 U.S. 560 (1981), the U.S. Supreme Court held that the federal Constitution does not prohibit states from allowing cameras in the courtroom and that states may adopt their own rules permitting such recording equipment. Note that this ruling does not require states to allow recording in the courtroom, it only says that states may choose to do so. Since this ruling, all fifty states have adopted rules on the topic, but the rules vary widely. In some states, cameras and recording equipment are permitted in trial and appellate court proceedings, while in others recording is only allowed in appellate court proceedings. Most states give the court discretion to impose reasonable restrictions on the use of cameras and recording equipment in order to maintain the integrity of its proceedings and to otherwise serve the interests of justice.

For state-specific information about recording in courtrooms, see the State Law: Recording section.

The federal appellate courts may adopt their own rules regarding cameras and recording equipment in the courtroom. At the time of writing, only the Second Circuit and the Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeals allow recording equipment.

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

Practical Tips for Recording Phone Calls, Conversations, Meetings, and Hearings

Using a recording device, such as a microphone, video recorder, or camera, is a helpful way to capture and preserve information about conversations, interviews, and phone calls in which you participate. It is also a good way to document what takes place in a court hearing or public meeting, whether for personal reference or later broadcast over the Internet. A number of laws affect your ability to use a recording device in these contexts. Here are some practical tips to help you avoid legal trouble when recording conversations, phone calls, meetings, and hearings.

Practical Tips for Recording Phone Calls and Conversations

    • Check the law of your state before you record a phone call or conversation. Recording phone calls and conversations without consent may expose you to criminal and civil liability, so you will want to be aware of what is permissible before taking action. When you do your research, pay attention to your state’s consent requirement — i.e., whether one party’s consent is sufficient to make recording lawful, or whether you need to get all parties’ consent. For state-specific information for the fifteen most populous U.S. states and the District of Columbia, see the State Law: Recording section in this guide. For states not yet covered in this guide, see the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press’ Can We Tape?
    • Get consent to record from all necessary parties. In many states, the consent of one party is sufficient to make recording lawful. But the legal situation becomes more uncertain when parties to a phone call are located in different states. To avoid legal problems, it is best to review the law in all states where parties to the call are located.  If any party is in a state that requires the consent of all parties, it is best to get the consent of all parties to the call (regardless of their state) before recording. Even when all parties to a conversation are in a state which only requires the consent of one party, it cannot hurt (and it may help) to get consent from everyone.
    • Get consent on tape. The best way to document that you have obtained consent is to record the consent along with the phone call or conversation. As a practical matter, this will require (1) notifying the person you intend to record of your intent to record; (2) getting consent off-the-record; (3) starting the recording; and then (4) asking the person to confirm on-the-record that he or she consents to the recording.
  • Don’t be secretive. In some states, you can violate the law by recording secretly, even in a public place. Whenever possible, make it clear to those around you that you are recording. Don’t hide your camera or tape recorder. Being upfront puts people on notice that they are being recorded, affords them an opportunity to object, and undercuts any argument that you are acting secretly.

Practical Tips for Recording Public Meetings and Court Hearings

    • Check the law of your state before you show up. State law varies greatly, especially when it comes to recording in the courtroom. Looking into the law ahead of time can help you understand what’s possible and alert you to requirements you need to meet ahead of time. For state-specific information for the fifteen most populous U.S. states and the District of Columbia, see the State Law: Recording section in this guide. For states not yet covered in this guide, see the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press’ Open Government Guide (for public meetings) and the Radio-Television News Directors Association’s Cameras in the Court: A State-By-State Guide (for court hearings).
    • Notify the clerk of the court or the governmental body holding the meeting well ahead of time that you plan to record. Many state laws require that you request permission in advance in order to record in a courtroom. This requirement is less common with respect to public meetings, but it may still be useful to advise the governmental body in question that you plan to record. In both cases, you get the opportunity to ask questions and find out more about any restrictions that may apply.
  • Don’t be secretive. In some states, you can violate the law by recording secretly, even in a public place like a meeting or courtroom. Whenever possible, make it clear to those around you that you are recording. Don’t hide your camera or tape recorder. Being upfront puts people on notice that they are being recorded, affords them an opportunity to object, and undercuts any argument that you are acting secretly.

State Law: Recording

Each state has its own wiretapping statute and its own rule on how many parties need to consent to the recording of a phone call or conversation in order to make it lawful. State law also varies on whether or not (and under what circumstances) you are permitted to use recording devices in public meetings and court hearings. Choose your state from the list below for state-specific information on recording laws.

 

Arizona Recording Law

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

Arizona Wiretapping Law

Arizona’s wiretapping law is a “one-party consent” law. Arizona makes it a crime to intercept a “wire or electronic communication” or a “conversation or discussion” unless you are a party to the communication, present during the conversation or discussion, or one party to the communication or conversation consents. A.R.S. § 13-3005-3012(9). Therefore, if you operate in Arizona, 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 abide by the recording law of the most restrictive state involved, or play it safe and get the consent of all parties.

The wiretapping law covers oral communications when the speakers have “an expectation that the communication is not subject to interception under circumstances justifying the expectation,” A.R.S. § 13-3001, but absent the speakers’ justified expectation, the law does not apply. See State v. Hauss, 142 Ariz. 159, 164 (Ariz. Ct. App. 1984). Therefore, you may be able to record in-person conversations occurring in a public place, such as a street or restaurant, without consent. However, you should seek the consent of one or all of the parties before recording any conversation that an ordinary person would deem private.

Violation of the Arizona law is a felony, punishable by imprisonment and fine. See A.R.S. §§ 13-601, -603-702, and  -801 for more details.

In addition, while recording a conversation with the consent of only one party is legal in Arizona, a lawyer’s recording of a conversation without the consent of all parties may be unethical under the Arizona Rules of Professional Conduct.  See State Bar of Arizona Ethics Opinions 75-13, 95-03. However, an attorney may advise her client to record a conversation without the consent of all parties as long as the recording is legal and the attorney does not participate in the recording.  See State Bar of Arizona Ethics Opinion 00-04.

In addition to subjecting you to criminal prosecution, violating the Arizona wiretapping law can expose you to a civil lawsuit for damages by an injured party. See A.R.S. § 12-731.

Arizona Law on Recording Court Hearings and Public Meetings

 

Court Hearings

Video and tape recording in Arizona state courtrooms is governed by Arizona Supreme Court Rule 122.  Rule 122 allows recording at the sole discretion of the presiding judge.  However, recording is flatly prohibited in juvenile court proceedings.  The full text of Rule 122 can be found on the Arizona Judicial Branch’s Arizona Court Rules website, under the “Current Arizona Rules” link.  See also the Arizona Supreme Court website on cameras in the Court.

If the presiding judge wants to limit or prohibit recording, he or she must make “specific, on-the-record findings that there is a likelihood of harm arising from one or more” of the following factors:

  1. The impact of coverage upon the right of any party to a fair trial;
  2. The impact of coverage upon the right of privacy of any party or witness;
  3. The impact of coverage upon the safety and well-being of any party, witness or juror;
  4. The likelihood that coverage would distract participants or would detract from the dignity of the proceedings;
  5. The adequacy of the physical facilities of the court for coverage;
  6. The timeliness of the request pursuant to subsection (f) of this Rule; and
  7. Any other factor affecting the fair administration of justice.

“Requests by the media for coverage” of court proceedings must generally be made no less than two days in advance of the hearing. Rule 122(f).  “Individual journalists” may use “personal audio recorders in the courtroom.” Rule 122(i). However, Rule 122 limits the number of television cameras allowed in the courtroom and establishes requirements for their placement and wiring.

Rule 122(k) forbids “[c]overage of jurors in a manner that will permit recognition of individual jurors by the public.”  Arizona law also explicitly prohibits interception of jury deliberations. A.R.S. § 13-3005(A)(3).

The federal trial court in Arizona appears to prohibit recording devices and cameras in the courtroom. See D. Ariz. LRCiv 43.1.  However, according to the website of the 9th Circuit, the federal appeals court, the 9th Circuit is “one of two federal appellate courts to regularly allow still and video cameras and audio recorders in the courtroom for purposes of reporting on the proceeding.”  The Court has promulgated guidelines for photographing, recording, and broadcasting in the courtroom. The guidelines vest discretion in the presiding judge to grant or deny requests for recording court proceedings, and requests must generally be made at least three business days in advance. The guidelines apply to coverage by the “media,” or “any person or entity regularly engaged in the gathering and dissemination of news.”  It is not clear from the guidelines whether these terms include non traditional media organizations or citizen journalists.

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

Public Meetings

Arizona’s open meetings law provides that “[a]ll or any part of a public meeting of a public body may be recorded by any person in attendance by means of a tape recorder or camera or any other means of sonic reproduction, provided that there is no active interference with the conduct of the meeting.”  A.R.S. § 38-431.01(F).

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: Arizona.

 

California Recording Law

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

California Wiretapping Law

California’s wiretapping law is a “two-party consent” law. California makes it a crime to record or eavesdrop on any confidential communication, including a private conversation or telephone call, without the consent of all parties to the conversation. See Cal. Penal Code § 632. The statute applies to “confidential communications” — i.e., conversations in which one of the parties has an objectively reasonable expectation that no one is listening in or overhearing the conversation. See Flanagan v. Flanagan, 41 P.3d 575, 576-77, 578-82 (Cal. 2002).  A California appellate court has ruled that this statute applies to the use of hidden video cameras to record conversations as well. See California v. Gibbons, 215 Cal. App. 3d 1204 (Cal Ct. App. 1989).

If you are recording someone without their knowledge in a public or semi-public place like a street or restaurant, the person whom you’re recording may or may not have “an objectively reasonable expectation that no one is listening in or overhearing the conversation,” and the reasonableness of the expectation would depend on the particular factual circumstances.  Therefore, you cannot necessarily assume that you are in the clear simply because you are in a public place.

If you are operating in California, you should always get the consent of all parties before recording any conversation that common sense tells you might be “private” or “confidential.” In addition to subjecting you to criminal prosecution, violating the California wiretapping law can expose you to a civil lawsuit for damages by an injured party. See Cal. Penal Code § 637.2.

Consult The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press’s Can We Tape?: California for more information on California wiretapping law.

California Law on Recording Court Hearings and Public Meetings

Court Hearings

In a California state courtroom, you may be able to use a recording device if specific requirements are met. Anyone may use an inconspicuous personal recording device for note-taking purposes with the advance permission of the judge. For photographing, recording (other than as above), or broadcasting a court proceeding, you must file official media coverage request forms. These forms must be filed with the court at least five days before the event to be covered. The court has broad discretion to grant or deny such requests based on a number of factors. See Rule 1.150 of the California Rules of Court for details.

Federal courts in California are part of the Ninth Circuit. In Ninth Circuit appellate proceedings, cameras and recording devices are permitted at the discretion of the presiding panel of judges. To get permission, you need to file an Application for Permission to Photograph, Record, or Broadcast from the Courtroom three days in advance, although the panel can waive the advance notice requirement. Recording devices and cameras generally are prohibited in federal district courts in California.

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

Public Meetings

If you attend a public meeting (i.e., a meeting of a governmental body required to be open to the public by law) in California, you may make an audio or video recording unless the state or local body holding the meeting determines that the recording disrupts the proceedings by noise, illumination, or obstruction of view. Cal. Gov’t Code § 11124.1(a); Cal Gov’t Code §§ 54953.5(a),-.6.

For details on your right of access to public meetings, see the Access section and the The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press’s Open Government Guide: California.

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

District of Columbia Recording Law

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

DC Wiretapping Law

The District of Columbia’s wiretapping law is a “one-party consent” law.  DC makes it a crime to record a phone call or conversation unless one party to the conversation consents. See D.C. Code § 23-542. Thus, if you operate in DC, 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.

In addition to subjecting you to criminal prosecution, violating the DC wiretapping law can expose you to a civil lawsuit for damages by an injured party.

Consult The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press’s Can We Tape?: District of Columbia for more information on DC wiretapping law.

DC Law on Recording Court Hearings and Public Meetings

Court HearingsDistrict of Columbia “state” courts prohibit recording in both trial and appellate courtrooms.

Federal courts in the District, 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 the guide.

Public Meetings

The District of Columbia has no statutory provision about the use of recording devices or cameras at public meetings (i.e., meetings of a governmental body required to be open to the public by law), but the government body holding the meeting generally must make transcripts of the meeting available for public copying.

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: District of Columbia.

Florida Recording Law

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

Florida Wiretapping Law

Florida’s wiretapping law is a “two-party consent” law.  Florida makes it a crime to intercept or record a “wire, oral, or electronic communication” in Florida, unless all parties to the communication consent. See Fla. Stat. ch. 934.03. Florida law makes an exception for in-person communications when the parties do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the conversation, such as when they are engaged in conversation in a public place where they might reasonably be overheard. If you are operating in Florida, you may record these kinds of in-person conversations without breaking the law. However, you should always get the consent of all parties before recording any telephone conversation and any in-person that common sense tells you is private.

In addition to subjecting you to criminal prosecution, violating the Florida wiretapping law can expose you to a civil lawsuit for damages by an injured party.

Consult The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press’s Can We Tape?: Florida for more information on Florida wiretapping law.

Florida Law on Recording Court Hearings and Public Meetings

Court Hearings

Florida state courts generally allow the use of recording devices in the courtroom, both at the trial and appellate level. The presiding judge may prohibit recording devices from the courtroom only upon a showing that the presence of such devices will adversely affect the fairness or integrity of the proceedings.

Federal courts in Florida generally prohibit the use of recording devices and cameras in the courtroom, both at the trial and the appellate level.

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

Public Meetings

If you attend a public meeting (i.e., a meeting of a governmental body required to be open to the public by law) in Florida, generally you are permitted to use sound or video recording devices, so long as your recording does not disrupt the meeting.

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: Florida.

Georgia Recording Law

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

Georgia Wiretapping Law

Georgia’s wiretapping law is a “one-party consent” law for purposes of making audio recordings of conversations. Georgia makes it a crime to secretly record a phone call or in-person conversation “originat[ing] in any private place” unless one party to the conversation consents. See Ga. Code §§ 16-11-62(1), 16-11-66 (link is to the entire code; you need to click through to Title 16, Chapter 11, Article 3, Part I, and then choose the specific provisions). Therefore, 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.

In addition, Georgia has a special provision regarding the use of a hidden video camera. The law makes it a crime to use a device to “observe, photograph, or record the activities of another which occur in any private place and out of the public view” unless the person making the recording gets the consent of all the persons observed. Ga. Code § 16-11-62(2) (link is to the entire code; you need to click through to Title 16, Chapter 11, Article 3, Part I, and then choose the specific provision).

In addition to subjecting you to criminal prosecution, violating these provisions can expose you to a civil lawsuit for damages by an injured party.

Consult The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press’s Can We Tape?: Georgia for more information on Georgia wiretapping law.

Georgia Law on Recording Court Hearings and Public Meetings

Court Hearings

You may record state court proceedings in Georgia, subject to a number of restrictions. At the trial court level, in order to record a court hearing, you must file a timely written request on a form provided by the court with the judge involved in the proceeding. The judge may decide to allow only one camera or recording device at a given time, and there is a prohibition on photographing or televising members of the jury.

At the appellate court level, you must make a written request to the court at least seven days in advance, and radio and television media are required to supply the court with a video or audio of the covered proceedings. It is not clear whether this latter requirement would apply to online publishers creating audio podcasts, video podcasts, or other online media similar to radio and television. In the appellate court, limitations are imposed on the number of cameras and photographers allowed in the courtroom at any given time.

In the Georgia Supreme Court, recording, photographing, and broadcasting is allowed without prior approval unless it “distracts from the dignity of the proceeding.” The Supreme Court retains the authority to “limit, restrict, prohibit, and terminate the photographing, recording, and broadcasting of any judicial session.” Limitations are imposed on the number of cameras and photographers allowed in the courtroom at any given time.

Federal courts in Georgia, both at 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 the guide.

Public Meetings

Georgia law expressly provides that “[v]isual, sound, and visual and sound recording during open meetings shall be permitted.” Ga. Code § 50-14-1 (link is to the entire code; you need to click through to Title 50, Chapter 14, and then choose the specific provision).

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: Georgia.

Illinois Recording Law

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

Illinois Wiretapping Law

Illinois’s wiretapping law is a “two-party consent” law. Illinois makes it a crime to use an “eavesdropping device” to overhear or record a phone call or conversation without the consent of all parties to the conversation. The law defines an “eavesdropping device” as “any device capable of being used to hear or record oral conversation or intercept, retain, or transcribe electronic communication whether such conversation or electronic communication is conducted in person, by telephone, or by any other means.” 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/14-1, -2. If you are operating in Illinois, you should always get the consent of all parties before recording an in-person conversation or telephone call. In addition to subjecting you to criminal prosecution, violating the Illinois wiretapping statute can expose you to a civil lawsuit for damages by an injured party.

While you generally are permitted to photograph or record video of people without permission in most public places, it is illegal in Illinois to “videotape, photograph, or film” people without their consent in “a restroom, tanning bed, or tanning salon, locker room, changing room or hotel bedroom.” 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/26-4(a) (scroll down).

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

Illinois Law on Recording Court Hearings and Public Meetings

Court Hearings

In Illinois state trial courts, the use of sound and video recording devices is prohibited except by an order of the Illinois Supreme Court. Use of recording devices is permitted in hearings of the state appellate courts, but you must notify the clerk of the court at least five days in advance, and the appellate court may choose to prohibit recording. If media coverage is permitted, only one television and one still camera will be allowed at any given time.

Federal courts in Illinois, both at the trial and appellate level, prohibit the use of sound and video recording devices in the courtroom.

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

Public Meetings

A provision of the Illinois open meetings law states that “any person may record the proceedings at meetings required to be open by this Act by tape, film or other means.” The statute goes on, however, to say that the authority holding the meeting shall make “reasonable rules to govern the right to make such recordings.” 5 Ill Comp. Stat. 120/2.05 (scroll down).

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: Illinois.

Indiana Recording Law

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

Indiana Wiretapping Law

Indiana’s wiretapping law is a “one-party consent” law. Indiana makes it a crime to record a telephone conversation unless one party to the conversation consents. See Ind. Code § 35-31.5-2-176 and Ind. Code § 35-33.5-5-5. Therefore, you may record a telephone conversation if you are a party to the conversation or you get permission from one party to the conversation. 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. In-person conversations do not appear to be covered by the law, but it cannot hurt to get consent before recording just in case.

In addition to subjecting you to criminal prosecution, violating the Indiana wiretapping law can expose you to a civil lawsuit for damages by an injured party. Ind. Code § 35-33.5-5-4.

Consult The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press’s Can We Tape?: Indiana for more on Indiana wiretapping law.

Indiana Law on Recording Court Hearings and Public Meetings

Court Hearings

You are permitted to use recording devices in the Indiana Supreme Court and in Indiana appellate court proceedings. For the Indiana Supreme Court, you must make a request twenty-four hours before the start of the proceedings. For Indiana appellate courts, you must make a request forty-eight hours before the start of the proceedings. (Note that all appellate oral arguments are also webcast live and are available on-line.)

As part of a pilot project that ended December 31, 2007, Indiana state trial courts allowed recording devices in court where both parties agreed. It is presently unclear whether this state of affairs will continue. Initial reports do not appear positive.

Federal courts in Indiana, both at the trial and appellate level, prohibit the use of sound and video recording devices in the courtroom.

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

Public Meetings

If you attend a public meeting (i.e., a meeting of a governmental body required to be open to the public by law) in Indiana, the presiding body may not prohibit you from making a sound recording. See Ind. Code § 5-14-1.5-3(a) (scroll down) (meetings of “governing bodies of public agencies must be open at all times for the purpose of permitting members of the public to observe and record them”). The precise status of video recording is less clear under the law, but in practice still photography and video recording are commonplace.

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: Indiana.

Massachusetts Recording Law

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

For additional information about engaging in journalism in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, please see our printable PDF guide Newsgathering in Massachusetts, co-produced with the Harvard Law School Cyberlaw Clinic.

Massachusetts Wiretapping Law

Massachusetts’s wiretapping law often referred to is a “two-party consent” law.  More accurately, Massachusetts makes it a crime to secretly record a conversation, whether the conversation is in-person or taking place by telephone or another medium. See Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 272, § 99. Accordingly, if you are operating in Massachusetts, you should always inform all parties to a telephone call or conversation that you are recording, unless it is absolutely clear to everyone involved that you are recording (i.e., the recording is not “secret”). Under Massachusetts’s wiretapping law, if a party to a conversation is aware that you are recording and does not want to be recorded, it is up to that person to leave the conversation.

This law applies to secret video recording when sound is captured.  In a 2007 case, a political activist was convicted of violating the wiretapping statute by secretly recording video of a Boston University police sergeant during a political protest in 2006. The activist was shooting footage of the protest when police ordered him to stop and then arrested him for continuing to operate the camera while hiding it in his coat. As part of the sentencing, the court ordered the defendant to remove the footage from the Internet. From this case, it appears that you can violate the statute by secretly recording, even when you are in a public place. However, in a 2011 case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit held that recording police activity in public is independently protected by the First Amendment, and that it is unconstitutional for the state to prosecute those recording the police in public under Massachusetts’s wiretapping law; this ruling might protect secret as well as open recordings.

In addition to subjecting you to criminal prosecution, violating the Massachusetts wiretapping law can expose you to a civil lawsuit for damages by an injured party.

Consult The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press’s Can We Tape?: Massachusetts for more information on Massachusetts wiretapping law.

Massachusetts Law on Recording Court Hearings and Public Meetings

Court Hearings

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Rule 1:19 says that judges should “permit broadcasting, televising, electronic recording, or taking photographs of proceedings open to the public in the courtroom by the news media for news gathering purposes and dissemination of information to the public,” with certain limitations.  Members of the media must make a request to the court a reasonable time in advance of the proceeding. Courts generally do not allow recording devices in certain types of sensitive cases, and the judge retains the discretion to limit the use of recording devices to preserve the decorum of the court and the fairness of the proceeding.  See this Massachusetts Bar Association post for details. Supreme Judicial Court oral arguments are webcast and archived online.

Federal courts in Massachusetts, 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 the guide.

Public Meetings

Massachusetts open meetings law expressly permits sound and video recording of public meetings (i.e., meetings of a governmental body required to be open to the public by law), except for executive sessions, by anyone in attendance. The statute provides that:

After notifying the chair of the public body, any person may make a video or audio recording of an open session of a meeting of a public body, or may transmit the meeting through any medium, subject to reasonable requirements of the chair as to the number, placement and operation of equipment used so as not to interfere with the conduct of the meeting. At the beginning of the meeting the chair shall inform other attendees of any such recordings.

See Mass. Gen. Laws. ch. 30A, § 20(e).

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: Massachusetts.

Michigan Recording Law

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

Court Hearings

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.

Public Meetings

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.

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.

New Jersey Recording Law

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

New Jersey Wiretapping Law

New Jersey’s wiretapping law is a “one-party consent” law. New Jersey makes it a crime to intercept or record an in-person or telephone conversation unless one party to the conversation consents. N.J. Stat. §§ 2A:156A-3, -4. (link is to the entire code; you need to click through to Title 2A, Article 156A, and then locate the specific provisions). Thus, if you operate in New Jersey, 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.

In addition to subjecting you to criminal prosecution, violating the New Jersey wiretapping law can expose you to a civil lawsuit for damages by an injured party.

Consult the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press’s Can We Tape?: New Jersey for more information on New Jersey wiretapping law.

New Jersey Law on Recording Court Hearings and Public Meetings

Court Hearings

New Jersey law places restrictions on your ability to make sound and video recordings in state courtrooms. First, the New Jersey Supreme Court guidelines permit audio and video recording for future broadcast only by those with “bona fide press credentials” issued by the New Jersey Press Association or those with identification from a “bona fide media outlet,” defined as an “organization that reports the news and whose news reports are made available to the general public by being published or broadcast on a regular schedule by television, radio, retail sales, or by subscription where there is no membership or dues requirement to subscribe.” This could present a substantial obstacle for amateur and other non-traditional journalists and online publishers. Second, you must make a request for permission a reasonable time in advance, and the court may limit media coverage where it has the potential to harm parties or witnesses. You may, however, appeal any denial of coverage to a state appellate court (if coverage was denied by a district court) or to the State Supreme Court (if coverage was denied by an appellate court). Recording devices are prohibited in certain particularly sensitive types of proceedings, such as those involving juveniles. In addition, the court may place restrictions on the number of cameras allowed into a courtroom at a particular time. For more detailed information, please consult the Supreme Court Guidelines for Still and Television Camera and Audio Coverage of Proceedings in The Courts of New Jersey.

Federal courts in New Jersey, 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 the guide.

Public Meetings

New Jersey law allows sound and video recording devices in public meetings (i.e., meetings of a governmental body required to be open to the public by law), subject to reasonable restrictions, such as advance notice, that generally track those imposed in state courtrooms (above).

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: New Jersey.

New York Recording Law

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

New York Wiretapping Law

New York’s wiretapping law is a “one-party consent” law.  New York makes it a crime to record to record or eavesdrop on an in-person or telephone conversation unless one party to the conversation consents. N.Y. Penal Law §§ 250.00, 250.05. (link is to the entire code, you need to click on the Penal Code section, then choose Article 250 and locate the specific provisions). Thus, if you operate in New York, 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.

Consult the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press’s Can We Tape?: New York for more information on New York wiretapping law.

New York Law on Recording Court Hearings and Public Meetings

Court Hearings

New York state appellate courts permit recording subject to the approval of the particular court. Only two television cameras and two still cameras are allowed in the courtroom at any given time. New York trial courts do not allow recording devices in courtrooms.

Federal appellate courts in the Second Circuit, which encompasses New York, permit sound and video recordings of oral arguments under certain circumstances. The Second Circuit does not permit recording of criminal matters, but “any person or entity regularly engaged in the gathering and dissemination of news” may record oral arguments in civil cases if they notify the calendar clerk no later than noon two days prior to the proceeding. The presiding judges have the discretion to exclude the media from the courtroom, and there are limitations on the number of cameras that will be allowed at any time. Recording devices are not permitted in federal district courts in New York.

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

Public Meetings

New York courts have held that persons attending a public meeting (i.e., a meeting of a governmental body required to be open to the public by law) have a right to tape or video record the meeting in an unobtrusive way. This does not mean that a governmental body holding a meeting cannot impose restrictions on the use of recording devices, but it may not ban such devices altogether.

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: New York.

North Carolina Recording Law

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

North Carolina Wiretapping Law

North Carolina’s wiretapping law is a “one-party consent” law.  North Carolina makes it a crime to intercept or record any “wire, oral, or electronic communication” unless one party to the conversation consents. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-287. Thus, if you operate in North Carolina, 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.

In addition to subjecting you to criminal prosecution, violating the North Carolina wiretapping law can expose you to a civil lawsuit for damages by an injured party. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-296.

Consult the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press’s Can We Tape?: North Carolina for more information on North Carolina wiretapping law.

North Carolina Law on Recording Court Hearings and Public Meetings

Court Hearings

You may use a tape recorder in North Carolina state courtrooms if you obtain the permission of the presiding judge. You may use other recording devices, such as cameras, if you get the permission of the judge and keep them partitioned away from and unobserved by participants in the courtroom. The presiding judge may waive this requirement in certain cases. Only two video cameras and one still photographer are allowed in the court room at a given time, and coverage of certain types of sensitive cases (e.g., trade secrets cases, divorce cases) is prohibited.

Federal courts in North Carolina, 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 the guide.

Public Meetings

North Carolina law gives you the right to make sound and video recordings of public meetings (i.e., meetings of a governmental body required to be open to the public by law). The governmental body may “regulate the placement and use of equipment necessary for broadcasting, photographing, filming, or recording a meeting, so as to prevent undue interference with the meeting,” but the body must allow equipment to be placed within the meeting room so as to permit its intended use, and “the ordinary use of such equipment shall not be declared to constitute undue interference.” N.C. Gen. Stat. § 143-318.14.

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: North Carolina.

Ohio Recording Law

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

Ohio Wiretapping Law

Ohio’s wiretapping law is a “one-party consent” law. Ohio law makes it a crime to intercept or record any “wire, oral, or electronic communication” unless one party to the conversation consents. Ohio Rev. Code § 2933.52. Thus, if you operate in Ohio, 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.

Additionally, consent is not required for oral communications (e.g., in-person conversations) where the speakers does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the communication. See Ohio Rev. Code § 2933.51. This means that you are free to record a conversation happening between two people in a public place such as a street or a restaurant, so long as you are not using sensitive recording equipment to pick up what you otherwise would not hear.

In addition to subjecting you to criminal prosecution, violating the Ohio wiretapping law can expose you to a civil lawsuit for damages by an injured party.

Consult the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press’s Can We Tape?: Ohio for more information on Ohio wiretapping law.

Ohio Law on Recording Court Hearings and Public Meetings

Court Hearings

Ohio state courts generally allow the use of recording devices, but impose a number of important restrictions. Most importantly, witnesses and victims of crimes have a right to object to recording in state trial courts. If a witness or victim objects, the court will prohibit recording. In addition, you must get the consent of the presiding judge in advance, and the judge may impose limits on the number of recording devices in the courtroom at any given time. Courts may also establish their own local rules regarding recording devices.

Federal courts in Ohio, 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 the guide.

Public Meetings

While the Ohio open records law does not specifically state whether you can use recording devices at a public meeting (i.e., a meeting of a governmental body required to be open to the public by law), the Ohio Attorney General has an issued an opinion stating that using them is permissible when it does not unduly interfere with the meeting. As a matter of practice, recording devices apparently are common in Ohio public meetings.

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: Ohio.

Pennsylvania Recording Law

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

Pennsylvania Wiretapping Law

Pennsylvania’s wiretapping law is a “two-party consent” law.  Pennsylvania makes it a crime to intercept or record a telephone call or conversation unless all parties to the conversation consent. See 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5703 (link is to the entire code, choose Title 18, Part II, Article F, Chapter 57, Subchapter B, and then the specific provision).

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 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5702 (link is to the entire code, choose Title 18, Part II, Article F, Chapter 57, Subchapter A, and then the specific provision). Therefore, you may be able to record in-person conversations occurring in a public place without consent. However, you should always get the consent of all parties before recording any conversation that common sense tells you is private.

In addition to subjecting you to criminal prosecution, violating the Pennsylvania wiretapping law can expose you to a civil lawsuit for damages by an injured party.

Consult the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press’s Can We Tape?: Pennsylvania for more information on Pennsylvania wiretapping law.

Pennsylvania Law on Recording Court Hearings and Public Meetings

Court Hearings

Pennsylvania state courts generally prohibit the use of recording devices in the courtroom, both at the trial and appellate court level. However, individual judges may authorize recordings of non-jury civil trials, if both parties to the lawsuit consent. In that case, individual witnesses may object to recording and be excluded from coverage. Local courts may also establish additional rules.

Federal courts in Pennsylvania, 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.

Public Meetings

Recording devices are allowed in public meetings (i.e., meetings of a governmental body required to be open to the public by law) in Pennsylvania. Governmental bodies may adopt their own rules to maintain order at their meetings, but those rules may not include flat prohibitions on recording.

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: Pennsylvania.

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 HearingsTennessee 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.

Texas Recording Law

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

Court Hearings

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.

Public Meetings

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.

Virginia Recording Law

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

Virginia Wiretapping Law

Virginia’s wiretapping law is a http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/recording-phone-calls-and-conversations”>”one-party consent” law. Virginia makes it a crime to intercept or  record any “wire, oral, or electronic communication” unless one party to the conversation  consents. Virginia Code § 19.2-62. Therefore, if you operate in Virginia, 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 abide by the recording law of the most restrictive state involved, or play it safe and get the  consent of all parties.

The wiretapping law covers oral communications when the speakers have an “expectation that such communication is not subject to interception under circumstances justifying such expectations,” Virginia Code § 19.2-61, But absent the  speakers’ justified expecation, the law does not apply. See Belmer v. Commonwealth. Therefore, you may be able to record in-person conversations occurring in a public place, such as a street or restaurant, without consent. However, you should seek the consent of one or all of the parties before recording any conversation that an ordinary person would deem private.

Violation of the Virginia law is a felony, punishable by imprisonment and fine.  See  Virginia Code § 18.2-10 for more details.  In  addition, while recording a telephone conversation with the consent of only one party is legal in Virginia, a  lawyer’s recording of a telephone conversation without the consent of all parties was found to be unethical under  the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct (United States v.  Smallwood).

In addition to subjecting you to criminal prosecution, violating the Virginia wiretapping law can expose you to a civil lawsuit for damages by an injured party. See Virginia Code § 19.2-69.

Virginia Law on Recording Court Hearings and Public Meetings

Court Hearings

Recording is allowed in Virginia state courtrooms at the sole discretion of the presiding judge. It is, however, flatly prohibited in certain types of sensitive cases (e.g., those involving juveniles or sexual offenses; however, a juvenile who is tried as an adult is excluded from the prohibition on recording.  See  Novak v. Commonwealth, 20 Va. App. 373, 390-91 (1995)). Only two television cameras and one still photographer are allowed in a courtroom at any given time.   For a complete list of the statutory guidelines, see Va. Code 19.2-266.

Federal courts in Virginia, 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.

Public Meetings

Virginia open meetings law provides that any person may “photograph, film, record or otherwise reproduce any portion of a meeting required to be open.” However, the public body conducting the meeting “may adopt rules governing the placement and use of equipment necessary for broadcasting, photographing, filming or recording a meeting to prevent interference with the proceedings.” Virginia Code  § 2.2-3707(H). But the adopted rules may not “prohibit or otherwise prevent any person from photographing,  filming, recording, or otherwise reproducing any portion of a meeting required to be open,” and “[n]o  public body shall conduct a meeting required to be open in any building or facility where such recording devices are  prohibited.”  Virginia Code § 2.2-3707(H).

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 http://www.rcfp.org/ogg/index.php?op=browse&state=VA”>Open Government Guide: Virginia.

Washington Recording Law

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

Washington Wiretapping Law

Washington’s wiretapping law is a “two-party consent” law. Washington makes it a crime to intercept or record a private telephone call, in-person conversation, or electronic communication unless all parties to the communication consent.  See Wash. Rev. Code § 9.73.030(1). Whether a conversation or other communications is “private” depends on a number of case-specific factors, such as the subjective intention of the parties, the reasonableness of their expectation that the conversation would be private, the location of the conversation, and whether third parties were present. State v. Townsend, 57 P.3d 255, 259 (Wash. 2002). You should always get the consent of all parties before recording any conversation that common sense tells you is private.

In Washington, you can satisfy the consent requirement by “announc[ing] to all other parties engaged in the communication or conversation, in any reasonably effective manner, that such communication or conversation is about to be recorded or transmitted,” so long as this announcement is also recorded. Wash. Rev. Code § 9.73.030(3). In addition, an employee of a “regularly published newspaper, magazine, wire service, radio station, or television station acting in the course of bona fide news gathering duties on a full-time or contractual or part-time basis” can establish the consent of the party recorded even without an announcement if he or she uses a recording or transmitting device that is “readily apparent or obvious to the speakers.” Wash. Rev. Code § 9.73.030(4).

The language of this consent provision suggests that it probably does not apply to an employee of an online publication or a non-professional journalist who is not employed by a media outlet on a full-time, part-time, or contractual basis. This limitation may be of little importance, however, because Washington courts have held — in a non-media context — that a person will be deemed to have consented to having his or her communication recorded when he or she conveys a message knowing that it will be recorded. See In re Marriage of Farr, 940 P.2d 679 (Wash. App. 1997) (speaker consented when leaving a message on a telephone answering machine, the only function of which is to record messages); Townsend, 57 P.3d at 260 (person sending email consented to its recording because he “had to understand that computers are, among other things, a message recording device and that his e-mail messages would be recorded on the computer of the person to whom the message was sent”).

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. See Wash. Rev. Code § 9.73.060.

Consult the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press’s Can We Tape?: Washington for more information on Washington wiretapping law.

Washington Law on Recording Court Hearings and Public Meetings

Court Hearings

Washington state courts generally permit the use of recording devices in the courtroom, although the presiding judge must give express permission before recording and may impose limitations when it would be distracting to the participants or impair the dignity of the proceedings. In 1963, Washington State lawyers, judges, and members of the press formed the Bench-Bar-Press Committee, which seeks to foster better relationships between the bench and the press. The Committee  publishes an annual report that may be of interest.

Federal courts in Washington are part of the Ninth Circuit. In Ninth Circuit appellate proceedings, cameras and recording devices are permitted at the discretion of the presiding panel of judges. To get permission, you need to file an Application for Permission to Photograph, Record, or Broadcast from the Courtroom three days in advance, although the panel can waive the advance notice requirement. Recording devices and cameras generally are prohibited in federal district courts in Washington.

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

Public Meetings

Washington law allows you to use sound and video recording devices at public meetings (i.e., meetings of a governmental body required to be open to the public by law), unless they disrupt the orderly conduct of the meeting.

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: Washington.

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