Reporter's Recording Guide
Last updated May 2020Compare
Mississippi bars the recording, interception, use or disclosure of any in-person, telephonic or other communication without the consent of at least one party to the conversation.
The state also prohibits the recording and disclosure of images made in violation of its hidden camera laws.
Violators can face both civil and criminal penalties.Compare
A person can record an in-person conversation to which that person is present and participating, or in circumstances where consent to record is given by at least one of the parties, unless the recording was accompanied by a criminal or tortious intent. Miss. Code Ann. § 41-29-531(e).
A person does not need consent, however, to record conversations in places in which the parties do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. See definition of “oral communication,” Miss. Code Ann. § 41-29-501(j).Compare
Telephone and electronic communications
The statute prohibits recording any telephone or other communication unless that person is either a participant or has the consent of at least one party to the communication. Miss. Code Ann. § 41-29-531(e). This applies to cellphones, fax machines and computers, and consent may likewise be required to copy the contents of text or email messages sent between these devices to which parties have a reasonable expectation of privacy. See definitions of “wire communication” and “other communication,” Miss. Code Ann. § 41-29-501(n), (k); see also Miss. Code Ann. § 97-25-49.Compare
The state prohibits secretly photographing, filming or reproducing images of another person “with lewd, licentious or indecent intent” without that person’s consent while in a fitting room, locker room, restroom, tanning booth, bedroom or other area where the person would be expected intend to undressed and have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Miss. Code Ann. § 97-29-63.Compare
Illegally intercepting communications can be punished as misdemeanors with jail sentences up to one year and fines of up to $10,000. Miss. Code Ann. § 41-29-533. Disclosing the contents of such intercepted communications is a felony punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment and up to $10,000 in fines. Id.
Filming or photographing a person in violation of the state’s hidden camera law carries a penalty of up to five years’ imprisonment and a $5,000 fine, but the maximum prison sentence doubles if the subject being recorded is a child less than 16 years of age. Miss. Code Ann. § 97-29-63.Compare
Anyone whose communications were recorded, intercepted, disclosed or used in violation of the state’s wiretapping law can seek damages through a civil suit and may recover actual damages —not less than $100 per day or $1,000, whichever is greater — plus potential punitive damages, attorney’s fees and litigation costs. Miss. Code Ann. § 41-29-529.Compare
It is a felony for anyone who is not a law-enforcement officer to disclose the contents of intercepted communications for any reason other than testifying under oath in a governmental or court proceeding. Miss. Code Ann. §§ 41-29-511, 533.
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 Mississippi, 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