Is it legal to record a voice conversation?

Written by elizabeth giglio
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Is it legal to record a voice conversation?
Taping conversations can be legal if done correctly. (tonbandgerät image by Dron from

Taping an in-person conversation or telephone call can sometimes be a useful tool. From customer service issues in a business to divorce proceedings, taped conversations may be the only way to get vital information.

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Many companies tape customer service calls for review. In divorce proceedings, a taped conversation may give a judge insight into the real motives behind one party or the other. Law enforcement uses recordings to preserve confessions and to gain clues to crimes. Before recording any conversation, check your local laws by going to the Citizen Media Law Project website (see Resources) or contacting local authorities.

One-Party Consent

While taping a conversation may be a useful tool, there are several laws governing when and if it is legal to do so. Federal law allows the taping of conversations as long as at least one of the parties involved in the conversation says it is permissible. Thirty-eight States and D.C. have taken this federal law as their own. This law is known as "one-party consent."

Two-Party Consent

Twelve states have created their own laws, requiring consent of all parties involved in the conversation before the recording can be considered legal. These states are California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington. This law known as "two-party consent," but that name is misleading because if more than two people are involved, every person must grant permission.


Whether a state is a one- or two-party consent state, the person doing the recording must be one of the parties involved in the conversation. If a conversation is intended to be private and no consent is given, it cannot be recorded.

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