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Federal & State Telephone Recording Laws

Posted By Jim On 11/25/2009 @ 7:18 am In Personal Finance | 17 Comments

In the last post about suing debt collectors that violate the law [3], one of Craig’s recommendations was to record your conversations with debt collectors as evidence they violated the FDCPA. In the comments, there was discussion about whether recording or taping telephone conversations was legal. I thought a post clarifying the issue would be valuable.

Federal law permits the recording of phone calls and “other electronic communications” with the consent of at least one party to the call. From a Federal perspective, as long as you consent to the recording, you can record it without telling the other parties on the call that you’re recording the call.

However, just because it’s permitted Federally doesn’t mean every state allows it. The states are separate into “one party consent” states and “all party consent” or “two party consent” states.

One Party Consent

Thirty-eight states and Washington D.C. allow you to record conversations without informing the other parties if you are involved in the conversation. I won’t list all thirty eight states because I list the twelve all party consent below. If the state isn’t on the list below, then it’s a one party consent state.

All Party Consent

Twelve states require that all parties in the call consent to the taping. Sometimes this is called “two party consent” but if you have three or more parties on the line, all have to consent to the recording. The twelve states are:

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • Pennsylvania
  • Washington

For specific state by state law, I recommend the website Can We Tape? [4], they have a summary of each state’s law as well as court rulings and interpretations. Their summaries will give you a good idea of what the law is in that state as well as specific statues you can research in case you want to double check their account.

Interstate Calls

What if the call is from Idaho, a one party consent state, to Maryland, an all party consent state? It’s best that you follow the laws of the more strict state because the plaintiff can opt to file suit in the state with the stricter law. Whether the court allows it is another matter, but to be on the safe side you want to follow the laws of the all party consent state.

Finally, it’s always illegal to record conversations in which you were not a part of.

I hope that clears up the issue of whether or not you can record telephone conversations as well as whether you need consent to do so.

(Photo: byungkyupark [5])


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[3] suing debt collectors that violate the law: http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/how-to-sue-debt-collectors.html

[4] Can We Tape?: http://www.rcfp.org/taping/states.html

[5] byungkyupark: http://www.flickr.com/photos/byungkyupark/2655381446/sizes/m/

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