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State Phone Call Recording Law Summaries and Information

Is It Legal to Record Telephone Calls
With Debt Collectors?

Yes, but before recording a call with a debt collector or collection agency representative, you must be aware of the guidelines and requirements, which are different under federal law and from state to state.

Federal recording law says that at least one party taking part in the call MUST consent to the recording. (18 U.S.C. Sec. 2511(2)(d)). This means recording a call you are not involved in is illegal throughout the U.S. UNLESS you are a business and the call is occurring on a phone line or extension you are paying for. Federal law applies when the phone call extends over state lines (example: a person in California calling a person or company in Texas).

Certain states require that for a phone call within the same state only ONE party (and this could be you) involved in a multi-party phone call (2 or more persons) need to give consent. Other states require that ALL parties involved in a phone call or conversation be made aware of the intent to record before you can actually proceed to record the call.

Whose jurisdiction does an interstate call fall under?

While the federal government requires one-party consent, it does not have much in the way of specific legislation. But the FCC requires that all parties in a recorded interstate call must be notified either verbally or through an intermittent beep. Lawsuits concerning interstate telephone calls have been judged in both the originating state and the receiving state, so the recommendation is to follow the guidelines of the stricter state.

STATES REQUIRING ONE PARTY CONSENT
(only the party recording need consent)
Alabama Indiana New Jersey South Dakota
Alaska Iowa New Mexico Tennessee
Arizona Kansas New York Texas
Arkansas Kentucky North Carolina Utah
Colorado Louisiana North Dakota Vermont
Delaware Maine Ohio Virginia
Dst. Columbia Minnesota Oklahoma West Virginia
Georgia Mississippi Oregon Wisconsin
Hawaii Missouri Rhode Island Wyoming
Idaho Nebraska South Carolina  
For informational purposes only and not legal advise.

All-party consent requires everyone within the conversation to be made aware or notified of intent to record the call.

STATES REQUIRING ALL PARTY CONSENT
(All parties must consent to the recording)
California Illinois Michigan Pennsylvania
Connecticut Maryland Montana Washington
Florida Massachusetts New Hampshire Nevada
For informational purposes only and not legal advise.

Recording Telephone Calls In Different States – Interesting Information

Arizona

Arizona is a "one-party" state, ARS 13-3005.A(1)(2), and also permits a telephone "subscriber" (the person who orders the phone service and whose name is on the bill) to tape (intercept) calls without being a party to the conversation and without requiring any notification to any parties to the call, ARS 13-3012(5)(c).

California

California prohibits telephone monitoring or recording, including the use of information obtained through interception unless all parties to the conversation consent (California Penal Code Sections 631 & 632). There is no statutory business telephone exception and the relevant case law all but excludes this possibility. California courts have recognized "implied" consent as being sufficient to satisfy the statute where one party has expressly agreed to the taping and the other continues the conversation after having been informed that the call is being recorded. Violation is punishable by a fine of up to $2,500, imprisonment for not more than one year, or both. A civil plaintiff may recover the greater of $3,000 or three times the amount of any actual damages sustained.

Although California is a two-party state, it is also legal to record a conversation if you include a beep on the recorder and for the parties to hear.

Connecticut

Connecticut became a two-party consent approximately 3 years ago. The State Police in that state are strict and do the law. Especially interesting since their actions of illegally recording the telephone calls of prisoners at the individual barrack when arrested, are what led to the enactment of the two party law.

Illinois

Illinois is a two-party state, by statute. However, case law from both the IL Supreme Court and various Illinois appellate courts have declared Illinois a one-party state in the case of private citizens (businesses and plain folks - NOT law enforcement). The reigning consensus is that one-party consensual recording is merely "enhanced note-taking" and since some folks have total recall without recording, how can the other party have any expectation of privacy to a conversation held with another person.

Illinois requires prior consent of all participants to monitor or record a phone conversation. Ill. Rev. Stat. Ch. 38, Sec. 14-2. There is no specific business telephone exception, but in general courts have found extension telephones do not constitute eavesdropping devices. Criminal penalties for unlawful eavesdropping include up to three years' imprisonment or $10,000 in fines and the civil remedy provides for recovery of actual and punitive damages.

In the state of Illinois it is illegal to monitor cordless phones.

Indiana

In the state of Indiana it is one party authorization. As far as what is admissible in court it is still being tested per each case individually by the prosecutors office in the county in which the investigation or case was done.

Massachusetts

Massachusetts requires consent of al parties unless another exception applies (Massachusetts Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 272, Sec. 99). Telephone equipment, which is furnished to a phone company subscriber and used in the ordinary course of business, is excluded from the definition of unlawful interception devices (Id. at 99(B)(3)). Office intercommunication systems used in the ordinary course of business are similarly exempt (Id. at 99(D)(1)(b)). The criminal penalty is a fine of up to $10,000, imprisonment for up to five years, or both. In civil litigation, an injured party may recover actual and punitive damages as well as costs and fees. It is a separate violation to divulge or use the information garnered through unlawful interception and an additional penalty of up to two years in prison or $5,000 may be imposed on this count.

New York

New York is a one party state, however some courts will not admit an interview with a witness to an event if they were not informed they were being recorded. Apparently the judge may use his discretion.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania requires the consent of all parties. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. Sec. 5704(4) with the following exception: any individual may record a phone conversation without the other party's consent if:

1. The non-consenting party threatens the life or physical well being of the consenting party, or any member of his/her family.

2. The non-consenting party commits any criminal action (the statute specifically uses the example of telling the consenting party that they have marijuana they want the consenter to buy, but does state ANY criminal act).

Felony penalties may be imposed for violation of the Pennsylvania statute

Washington

Washington requires the consent of all parties. Some companies manage to work around that by going to the Indian reservations or any federally owned property to make the call - Federal law is a one party consent.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin is currently a one-party state though recent attempts in the legislature there have attempted, unsuccessfully so far, to change it to two-party. Even so, any evidence gathered by a one-party consensual recording is inadmissible except in murder or drug cases, as they say.

The Wisconsin Stats 885.365 Recorded telephone conversation (1) states "Evidence obtained as the result of the use of voice recording equipment for recording of telephone conversations, by way of interception of a communication or in any other number, shall be totally inadmissible in the court of this state in civil actions, except as provided by 968.28 to 968.37." Exceptions are it the party is informed before the recording is informed at the time that the conversation is being recorded and that any evidence thereby obtained may be used in a court of law or such recording is made through a recorder connector proved by the telecommunications utility as defined in WI Stats 968.28 - 968.37 (which is the stat for court ordered wiretaps) which automatically produces a distinctive recorder tone that is repeated at intervals of approximately 15 seconds. Fire department or law enforcement agencies are exempt as are court ordered wire tapes.

Also a recording on the phone made from a out of state call or made to an out of state party, has to have the party informed of the recording and his consent or the tone on line, every 15 seconds, or a consent in writing before the recording is started.

Needless to say this does not allow a person not a party to the conversation to record any part of the conversation without the parties to the conversation being informed the third party is recording the conversation.

References

  1. Electronic Communications Privacy Act. United States Code. Title 18.  Crimes And Criminal Procedure. Part I – Crimes. Chapter 119 – Wire And Electronic Communications Interception And Interception Of Oral Communications. http://floridalawfirm.com/privacy.html
  2. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press: A Practical Guide to Taping Phone Calls and In-Person Conversations in the 50 States and D.C. http://www.rcfp.org/taping/
  3. Broadcast of Telephone Conversations, 47 C.F.R. §73.1206 (1989)
  4. P.L. 99-508 ("The Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986"), amending 18 U.S.C. § 2510 -...
  5. 18 U.S.C. § 2510 - ... (1999) (Wire and Electronic Communications Interception and Interception of Oral Communications)
  6. FCC Consumer Information Bureau http://www.fcc.gov/cib/
  7. “Recording Telephone Conversations” http://www.fcc.gov/Bureaus/Common_Carrier/Factsheets/record.html
  8. “Interception And Divulgence Of Radio Communications” http://www.fcc.gov/Bureaus/Common_Carrier/Factsheets/investigation.html
  9. U.S. Department of Justice http://www.usdoj.gov/
  10. USA Bulletin, September 1997 Vol. 45, No. 5, 6. Electronic Investigative Techniques I, II: http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/eousa/foia_reading_room/usab4505.pdf, http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/eousa/foia_reading_room/usab4506.pdf
  11. Telephone Tape Recording Law. Ralph Thomas. National Association Of Investigative Specialists. http://www.pimall.com/nais/n.tel.tape.law.html

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