When telephone calls are being monitored or recorded in the movies, the scene usually depicts government agents lurking in blacked-out vans surrounded by an array of electrical equipment, listening to and recording phone conversations or recording calls in which the agents themselves are participating. However, real life is not quite so simple. We’ll discuss call recording laws and whether or not recording phone calls is legal in your state.

Is It Legal to Record a Phone Conversation?

The federal government has specific laws in place regarding monitoring and recording phone conversations, an act that is also known as “wiretapping.”

So, can you record a phone call under your specific circumstances?

Conversations that deal with government-related business matters or issues potentially affecting national security have a set of laws that differ from conversations being recorded between private citizens or non-government businesses. Wiretapping also includes the surveillance and/or recording of computer usage, e-mail exchanges, and wireless communications.

On the other hand, recording phone calls between two individuals or between a company representative and an individual can be covered by S18 U.S.C. 2511 (2)(d), which is known as the “one-party consent” law. This law requires that at least one of the participants in the conversation be aware that the call is being recorded, which is an easy requirement to meet if you are recording your own conversations. If you’re a business that wishes to record incoming and outbound calls with customers for quality assurance and training purposes, it’s crucial that you make the caller aware and protect your business from litigation.

Every State Except Vermont Has Phone Call Recording Laws

While many states follow the federal “one-party consent” law with regard to requirements for recording phone conversations, other states have enacted laws that are more strict in their requirements. In the U.S., there are 12 states that require the consent of both parties when a phone conversation is being recorded. While these laws are known as “two-party consent” laws, they actually require the consent of everyone involved in the phone call (such as in the case of a recorded conference call recording among several participants) in order for the recording to be legally permissible.

The 12 states that require the consent of all persons participating in the telephone conversation are:

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

While some of these states require that all parties to the call provide give explicit verbal or written consent prior to recording phone calls, commencing recording, some do not. A few states consider consent to be implied if a party on the call is notified that the call is being recorded and continues to participate in the conversation. In addition, most of the states mentioned above have criminal and civil laws in place to prosecute offending parties.

When recording interstate telephone calls and conference calls where the parties are located in separate states, you may wish to obtain the consent of both parties prior to recording. This ensures you are adhering to the recording laws by each state and helps protect yourself against litigation.

Recording Phone Call Laws: The Takeaway

Regardless of a state’s specific telephone recording laws, it is generally illegal in any state or federal jurisdiction to record a phone conversation that you are not a primary participant of, have not received consent to record from at least one of the participants, and are attempting to record a conversation that you would not normally be able to overhear.

If your company has a need to monitor or record telephone calls for training, tracking, or quality control purposes, make sure you are aware of any applicable state call recording laws relating to recording such conversations. Find out how CallRail’s call recording capabilities can help your business capture more leads and improve your customer service.