Video/Audio taping without consent

What are the legal ramifications of video and/or audio taping a conversation or meeting with another person (or persons) without their knowlege or consent? What would be acceptable in a legal/court situation? Do laws differ from state to state? :smack: Stupid question, of course they do, but how much?.

I’m absolutely **not ** talking about the prurient sort of activity here that seems to attract a rather sordid sort of voyeur. I’m talking about anticipating a somewhat questionable confrontation and arming oneself in advance.

IADefinitelyNAL, but my guess would be that something that happened in a public place might be considered to be acceptable. Something private, such as a private office environment might not. How about one’s home - does one have rights there that do not extend to other places? Therefore, by this (probably inaccurate) reasoning, I would assume that a telephone might not be acceptable, because although one end of the conversation occurs in one’s home, the other occurs in another private area.



IANAL either, but I can respond to the telephone portion of your OP. I live in New York State. It is illegal to use a telephone recording device in your home, so that you are aware the conversation is being recorded but the other party is not. It is considered a wiretap, and is solely the purvey of law enforcement.

Having said that, I own a device that does just that. ( and, I live in NY ). I bought it at Radio Shack of all places, and the cashier asked why I was buying it. I said, to do audio research with… :dubious:

I used it before I was using written contracts to seal a deal. As a freelancer, each gig gets its own contract. I used the device once or twice with people I didn’t trust, but never had to face the reality of trying to introduce the audiocassette as evidence in the pursuit of monies owed.


IIRC, the laws vary from state to state.

There used to be a really awesome web site which addressed this issue and gave a state-by-state breakdown of the applicable laws. Unfortunately, it seems to have vanished. What I remember from the page when it was in existence is that there are no federal laws against it, and it’s perfectly legal in most states. Only about 20 states have laws against recording somebody without their knowledge.

This might help.

Washoe, is this the page you were thinking of?

State-by-state summaries The links below will take you to summaries of each state’s wiretapping and eavesdropping laws.

The entry for Massachusetts readsMass. Ann. Laws ch. 272 , § 99: It is a crime to record any conversation, whether oral or wire, without the consent of all parties in Massachusetts. The penalty for violating the law is a fine of up to $10,000 and a jail sentence of up to five years.

Disclosure of the contents of an illegally recorded conversation, when accompanied by the knowledge that it was obtained illegally, is a misdemeanor that can be punished with a fine of up to $5,000 and imprisonment for up to two years. Civil damages are expressly authorized for the greater of actual damages, $100 for each day of violation or $1,000. Punitive damages and attorney fees also are recoverable.

Yes—that’s it! I was trying to find a page called “Can We Record?”, not “Can We Tape?”.

Thanks folks. It tells me what I need to know about the audio, anyway, even if it isn’t particularly what I wanted to hear…

Just as an explanation: I’m a long term employee, and right now the job situation is looking a bit shaky. My supervisor has a reputation of saying some absolutely off-the-wall (and probably actionable) comments during a termination process, then categorically denying it later. Human Resources (what an oxymoron :rolleyes: ) usually conducts the meeting, but they aren’t going to contradict a supervisor. I was wondering whether I should slip a recorder in my pocket if I got that tap on the shoulder, but clearly it wouldn’t be worth it. I suppose a video camera with no sound doesn’t break the law, but short of punching me (and he *has * been physically confrontational with employees) it wouldn’t do much good.

Thanks for your responses,