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Alabama

Reporter's Recording Guide

Last updated September 2019

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Summary

Alabama law sets criminal penalties for recording or disclosing private communication of others without the consent of at least one of the persons involved. The statute also bans secret observations while trespassing on private property, with or without recording.

Those divulging illegally obtained communications also face criminal penalties.

The state’s hidden camera law also has criminal penalties.

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In-person conversations

The consent of at least one party to a communication is needed to record a private conversation. Ala. Code §13A-11-30. This means a reporter’s recorded conversation with a source would be permissible.

However, there is no need to obtain consent to record conversations held in public places, where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.  Ala. Code § 13A-11-30(2).

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Telephone and electronic communications

Alabama’s criminal eavesdropping law prohibits the use of “any device” to overhear or record communications without the consent of at least one party engaged in the communication being recorded. Ala. Code §13A-11-31.

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Hidden cameras

Intentionally engaging in secret observation — for the purpose of spying on someone, with or without recording or taking photographs — while trespassing on private property is considered unlawful “criminal surveillance.” Ala. Code § 13A-11-32.

The law, however, does not criminalize the use of any such recording devices positioned in areas to which the public has access (e.g., filming conversations on public streets or a hotel lobby).

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Criminal penalties

Unlawfully recording a conversation is a misdemeanor carrying a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $6,000 fine. Ala. Code §§ 13A-5-7; 13A-5-12.

Criminal surveillance and disclosing information obtained through these methods are misdemeanors carrying a maximum jail sentence of six months and a fine of $3,000. Ala. Code §§ 13A-5-7; 13A-5-12. Installing an eavesdropping device on private property is considered a felony offense carrying a prison sentence between one and 10 years and a potential fine up to $15,000. Ala. Code § 13A-11-33.

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Civil suits

The statute does not authorize civil lawsuits against violators.

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Disclosing recordings

A person cannot knowingly or recklessly divulge information obtained through illegal eavesdropping or surveillance. Ala. Code § 13A-11-35.

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