Federal Laws Regarding Telephone Recording

by Craig

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In today’s age of modern technology, anyone with a handheld digital recorder can tape a phone conversation. However, if you don’t follow both the federal and states laws regarding telephone recording, you could potentially be breaking the law and risk hefty fines and/or jail time. To better protect yourself from these dangers, you should familiarize yourself on the laws. Here, we’ll take a closer look at the federal laws regarding telephone recording in the United States.

When recording a telephone conversation, first and foremost you have to educate yourself on the federal laws. In short, U.S. federal laws states that unless you have a court order, at least one party must give their consent verbally or in writing before the call can legally be recorded (Section 2511 of Title 18). If one of the parties doesn’t give their consent, the call can’t be recorded.

Note: 12 states have adopted a law which requires BOTH parties to mutually consent to the recording. When the recording takes place in ones of these states, or if a party being recorded is physically located there, then both parties must consent. Here’s a list of the following states:

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

Accepted Forms of Consent From a Telephone Company

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the federal government body which regulates communications by radio, satellite, television, wire and cable. If you haven’t learned by now, they are the ones who watch over and ensure both individuals and companies are abiding by the telephone laws. According to their law, a telephone company can record a call so long as there is oral consent from both parties before the call takes place,verbal notification immediately before the call, or an audible beep every 15 seconds during the call.

Business Exception

The federal telephone recording laws oftentimes allow for businesses to record conversations among their employees for training or other business-only purposes. For instance, if a call company wants to do a quality assurance test by recording “mock” phone calls within their company, then consent would typically not be required, as the employees would already be notified by their employer about the recordings. On the other hand, if they were actively calling potential customers and wish to record those calls, then federal law would require them to gain consent from the called party. If you operate a business and wish to record calls made to and from employees, you should first consult with a lawyer. While there is an exception in place for business phone calls, it’s still a gray area in many jurisdictions.

Before recording a phone call, take the time to educate yourself on the legality of your actions. While you could easily be “morally” right in your recordings, the law could state otherwise. If you’re found guilty, you could be subject to a fine of up to $250,000 per violation and 5 years of jail time for each violation. The federal laws stated above are only for reference purposes, and like all laws, they are subject to change at any time.

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