Is it legal to record calls in the United States?
The legality of recording phone calls in the United States varies by state and is governed by both federal and state laws.
Under federal law, and in many states, recording a conversation is legal with the consent of at least one party involved in the call. This is known as “one-party consent” and applies in thirty-eight states as well as the District of Columbia.
Two party consent laws
However, eleven states have adopted “two-party consent” laws, requiring the consent of every party involved in a phone call or conversation for the recording to be lawful. These states include California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington. It’s important to note that Illinois’ two-party consent statute was declared unconstitutional in 2014, and Hawai’i generally requires two-party consent if the recording device is installed in a private place. Massachusetts, on the other hand, bans “secret” recordings rather than requiring explicit consent from all parties.
Implicit consent and cross State calls
The laws can be quite specific and also include various conditions and exceptions. For example, in some states, if all parties know that the conversation is being recorded and continue with the communication, it might be considered as implicit consent. Moreover, the legal implications of recording calls cross-state can be complex. If parties to the call are in different states, it is advisable to adhere to the stricter law of the states involved.
Given these variations, it’s always prudent to familiarize yourself with the specific laws of your state or consult a legal professional for guidance. The Digital Media Law Project provides an overview of these laws, and Justia offers a detailed 50-state survey on recording phone calls and conversations. For a comprehensive chart of laws across all 50 states, you can refer to Matthiesen, Wickert & Lehrer S.C.’s website.