Reporter's Recording Guide
Last updated May 2020Compare
Louisiana’s Electronic Surveillance Act bars the recording, interception, use or disclosure of any in-person, telephone or electronic communication without the consent of at least one party to the conversation.
The state also prohibits the recording and disclosure of images taken in violation of its video voyeurism laws.
Violators can face both civil and criminal penalties.Compare
Under the state’s Electronic Surveillance Act, a person may not record or use a device to overhear a private conversation to which that person is not a party unless at least one party to the conversation consents to the recording. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15:1303.
The statute only applies to conversations in which parties have a reasonable expectation of privacy, so consent is not required to record conversations in public or in other places where parties do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. See definition of “oral communication,” La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15:1302(15).Compare
Telephone and electronic communications
The Electronic Surveillance Act prohibits the willful interception of any telephone or electronic communication absent the consent of at least one party to the conversation. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15:1303. The law defines “electronic communication” to specifically include “cordless, portable, or cellular telephone communication.” La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15:1302(8).
Additionally, because the provision of the law dealing with electronic communications applies to “any transfer of signs, signals, writings, images, sounds, data, or intelligence of any nature” sent by “a wire, radio, electromagnetic, photoelectronic, or photo-optical system,” consent of at least one party likewise is required to disclose the contents of text or email messages sent between electronic devices. Id.Compare
The state’s video voyeurism law bars the use of any type of hidden camera — including cameras attached to a drone — to observe, photograph or record a person where that person has not consented if the recording “is for a lewd or lascivious purpose,” or if the person is nude or performing sexual conduct. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:283.
The law, however, not be construed to affect the rights of any news-gathering organization.” Id.Compare
A violation of the state’s Electronic Surveillance Act, whether by recording or disclosing the contents of a communication without proper consent, carries a prison sentence of two to 10 years of hard labor and a $10,000 fine. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15:1303.
Violation of the state’s video voyeurism law can be punishable by a prison sentence anywhere from two to five years of hard labor and a $10,000 fine. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:283(B).Compare
Anyone whose confidential communications are intercepted, disclosed or used in violation of the state’s eavesdropping law may recover in a civil suit the payment of actual damages, $100 per day or $1,000, whichever is greater, plus potential punitive damages, attorney’s fees and other litigation costs. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15:1312.Compare
Anyone who discloses or uses the contents of any in-person, telephone or electronic communication either knowing or having reason to know it was recorded or intercepted in violation of the state’s Electronic Surveillance Act is subject to both criminal and civil penalties. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15:1303. Even if one does not know the communication was intercepted illegally, one may be still subject to civil penalties — though not criminal — for broadcasting, publishing, disseminating or otherwise distributing the communication. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15:1307; see Keller v. Aymond, 722 So. 2d 1224 (La. App. 3 Cir. 1998) (permitting a civil lawsuit to continue against a newspaper publisher for the publication of a private conversation allegedly illegally intercepted by a third party and played at a press conference).
The state also bars the transfer by email, the Internet or a commercial online service of any photo or film images obtained in violation of the state’s video voyeurism law. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:283(A).
If a journalist received an illegally recorded conversation and was not involved in the illegal conduct, the First Amendment likely protects the publication of such material, to the extent it is a matter of public concern and truthful. See Bartnicki v. Vopper, 532 U.S. 514 (2001). For more information, see this guide’s introductory chapter here.Compare
Right to record government officials in public
A growing consensus of courts have recognized a constitutional right to record government officials engaged in their duties in a public place. This First Amendment right to record generally encompasses both video and audio recording. For more information on the right to record broadly, see this guide’s introductory chapter here.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which includes Louisiana, has held that there is a First Amendment right to record, including the right to film and audio record the police, subject to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions. See Turner v. Lieutenant Driver, 848 F.3d 678, 689 (5th Cir. 2017).Compare