We understand that discussing phone recording laws can be boring, especially since the topic can be confusing. However, one of these days, you may find yourself wanting to record a call. When that happens, you need to ask yourself, “Is it legal to record this phone call?”
Before you do anything, you need to consider several things, including consent. While there are plenty of one-party consent states, there are areas that require you to get permission from everyone in the conversation.
In general, it’s polite to inform all parties about the call being recorded. Not only is it the cordial thing to do, but it is also a great way to gain the trust of the people in the conversation. For instance, if you’re a journalist interviewing a source, you can avoid miscommunication issues along the way.
As such, it’s important to perform your due diligence and know call recording laws according to your state.
One-Party Consent States and Other Call Recording Laws
As long as you follow the appropriate regulations, recording in-person and over-the-phone conversations won’t be an issue. There are a lot of one-party consent states which only require one person to provide permission for recording. That person could be you, the one calling. In these states, you’re not legally required to inform the other party about the recording.
However, there are 15 states that require two-party consent. Everyone in the conversation must give permission before the call recording can proceed. Here are the states that require two-party consent:
- New Hampshire
Do note that “two-party” does not equate to two people. For example, if there are four people in the conversation, you’ll need four permissions. “Two-party” simply means that everyone involved in the call must be aware that they are being recorded.
Important Things to Remember About Call Recording According the State
It’s not always easy to understand the state and federal laws that cover call recordings. So, here are some things to remember:
The Technicalities Involved in One-Party Consent States
Legal information site Justia mentions 36 states that require one-party consent for conversation recording—either over the phone or in person. Meanwhile, there are 15 states that require permission from all parties under some or all circumstances.
State legislators in Vermont haven’t enacted laws for recording conversations. Based on federal law, this jurisdiction should be considered one of the one-party consent states. However, the Vermont Supreme Court has decided that warrantless recording of a conversation in a person’s home is an unlawful invasion of privacy. So, it is technically considered an all-party consent state.
Now, we understand that we’re discussing state laws. Even so, we want to point out why federal law still matters. Under federal law, only one person is required to provide consent for call recording. However, that’s only applicable if the person is engaged in the conversation. Now, if you’re not part of the conversation but you’re trying to record it, you’re engaging in wiretapping or illegal eavesdropping. That’s the general consensus even in one-party consent states.
State laws for call recording may be the standard for a specific jurisdiction, but federal law lays the most stringent basis for regulating this practice.
Specific Recording Rules According to State Laws
Some states have confusing recording laws. However, in general, consent should apply if the parties involved expect some level of privacy in the conversation. Let’s say you’re inside your home and not in a public area like a restaurant. In this case, you should ask for permission before recording the conversation even if you’re in one of the one-party consent states.
Keep in mind that the term “consent” can have a relative meaning, depending on the state. In some states, consent must be stated explicitly. Meanwhile, in other states, implying consent is acceptable.
Once you go deeper into the details, you’ll find that some state laws can get even stricter.
For example, Nevada is technically among the one-party consent states. However, like in the state of Vermont, Nevada’s supreme court has required it to follow all-party consent laws.
In Maryland, whether the conversation is over the phone or in person, all parties in a conversation must give permission to the recording. However, even in one-party consent states, the state courts have ruled that the rule is only applicable to situations when there’s a “reasonable expectation of privacy”. So, if the conversation is happening in a coffee shop, you don’t need to get the other person’s permission to start recording.
Because there are discrepancies between federal and state laws, the general rule of thumb is to follow the strictest recording regulations in the area. Besides, there won’t be misunderstandings when you’re transparent about what you’re doing. After all, honesty is important in any line of work—whether you’re in sales, journalism, or marketing.
What About Conversations Across Different States
Let’s say you’re calling from one-party consent states like New Jersey and the other person is in an all-party state like Massachusetts. What should you do about this?
Well, in general, you should consider where the recording device is located. The laws in that jurisdiction will likely apply.
In this case, it can be challenging to determine whether state or federal laws apply to the conversation. The odds lean towards federal laws if the parties are located in different states. Even so, it’s best to follow the strictest call recording law. To be safe, you should just obtain permission from everyone involved in the conversation.
Now, what if all the parties involved in the call are in the same state? In that case, you can be confident that the state laws for recording will apply to that conversation.
What Are the Charges for Violating Call Recording Laws?
We’ve already established that your safest bet is to inform all the parties in a conversation about the call recording. You can even get verbal permission just to make the process foolproof. If you do this, it’s unlikely for you to land into legal troubles.
However, what will happen if you’re not in one of the one-party consent states and you violate one of these laws? In general, you could face a lawsuit or crime charges. Some instances may involve a more serious felony than a slight misdemeanor. In most states, such charges will involve some jail time or fines. If a criminal court finds you guilty of breaking consent laws, you may end up facing both.
If you’re not sure about the legality of your particular call recording, lean towards the more cautious side. When in doubt, just don’t record even if you’re in one of the one-party consent states. Now, if your job requires you to record conversations, then your best bet is to seek legal counsel. A lawyer should help you understand the state and federal consent laws.
Call and Conferencing Apps Have Rules in Place
Before, it was easier to discreetly record phone conversations. However, today’s tech products have been designed to ensure that everyone follows the consent rules. For instance, video conferencing apps like Zoom requires everyone in the conversation to provide consent to the recording. There’s a prompt that people have to click before the host can begin the recording.
Meanwhile, on Skype, once one of the parties starts recording, everyone will see a notification. They can either stay or leave the call. On the other hand, there are phone apps that offer shortcuts for providing consent. Before they can join the conversation, they will be notified about the call recording. If they give permission, they have to dial a number or say “yes”.
Technology has made it easier for users to avoid getting into legal trouble for recording conversations. Despite that, it’s still ideal to perform your due diligence and learn about the consent laws for the locations you usually call.
Best Practices in Call Recordings
Indeed, it’s crucial to learn about the laws that cover phone call recording in all-party and one-party consent states. However, it’s also important to know about the etiquette rules for recording conversations. By following these tips, you’ll get the details you need from the call while building your relationship with the people involved.
Remain Honest and Transparent
You could be breaking the law if you’re recording a conversation secretly. In some states, this practice can be illegal even if you’re in a public place. So, no matter the circumstance, make sure that everyone is aware that you’re recording. When you’re upfront about what you’re doing, people will have the opportunity to accept or object. It will also avoid arguments that you’re invading someone’s privacy.
Imagine listening to a recorded call and you’re unable to understand some or all of the things that were said. So, when in a call, make sure that everyone involved is speaking clearly. If anyone’s mumbling, you can politely remind them to speak up. Slowing down, pausing between sentences, and spelling out complex or technical lingo can also be useful. Speaking clearly is necessary, especially if you need to ask for recording permission because you’re not in one of the one-party consent states.
If you’re the one hosting the call and you’re recording it, you should listen carefully to what the other party is saying. Otherwise, you’re only defeating the purpose of recording the conversation, which is to pick up important information.
It’s only natural to rely on recordings, but it’s still ideal to actively listen to the conversation. This way, you can ask relevant questions that will add value to the call. You should do this whether you’re in two-party or one-party consent states.
Identify Everyone in the Conversation
When you’re in a conference call, you should ensure that everyone involved will identify themselves. For clarity, you can ask them to spell their last names. Also, at the onset of the conversation, advise them to mention their name if they want to say anything. This way, it will be easier for you to identify the person speaking in the recording.
Some important phone calls are unscheduled, and you have no choice but to skip lunch. However, that shouldn’t give you the right to chomp on your sandwich during the conversation. It’s common etiquette to avoid eating while on a call. You can wait until the conversation is over to eat your lunch.
Also, it’s rude to chew gum during conversations. Imagine hearing that distracting, chewing noise when you listen to the recording again.
Be Mindful of Your Tone
Since you’re recording the conversation, you should be extra mindful of how you’re coming across. People can derive different meanings based on the tone of your voice. If you’re not careful, you may sound overly pushy, aggressive, or even anxious. If you need to point out something, do so with tact.
Avoid multitasking when you are in a conversation, even if it’s being recorded. Avoid distractions like your paperwork, smartphone, or computer. Also, check if your mic or earbuds are creating noisy feedback. You wouldn’t want to annoy everyone in the conversation.
What Types of Conversations Can You Record?
Here are some examples of the conversations that you can record:
If important actions were taken in a business conversation, an official record would be necessary. Let’s say the conference call involved giving formal votes. The recording will eliminate any doubt that people may have about the results. The transcript or the recording can be used for verification.
If you’re a journalist, it can be challenging to recall interview details from memory. By having a recording or transcript of the conversation, you can easily flesh out important quotes and double-check information. This practice can also be useful for future news files. After all, transcripts can also serve as excellent idea pools for fresh stories.
When you’re meeting with a client, it’s always useful to record the conversation. You can play back the file to get key points that may be helpful for your business transaction. What’s more, if your client provided instructions, the recording will confirm if you’re following their directions to a tee.
Anyone who has been in a lecture hall with over a hundred students understands how difficult it is to catch every important detail in the discussion. While your notes can be useful, you can be more efficient if you have a recording or a transcript of the lesson.
Transcribe Your Recording without the Hassle
A call recording can be useful, but it’s easier to review the details if you have a transcript of the conversation. However, it can be time-consuming and challenging to do this on your own. So, your best bet is to use GoTranscript’s 100% human-generated transcription services. With professionals working on your recording, you can expect legal-grade accuracy for your transcripts.