August 1, 2012

Summary of statute(s): An individual not involved or present at a conversation must have the consent of at least one party in order to legally record either an oral or electronic communication. Intercepting such conversations without consent is a felony under Arizona law. This excludes situations where the person does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. The state allows for civil suits for violations of its eavesdropping laws.

In-person conversations: Consent is required for the taping of a conversation spoken by a person who has a justified expectation that the conversation will not be intercepted. See definition of “oral communication,” Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 13-3001. Absent that expectation, no consent is required. For example, a state appellate court has held that a criminal defendant’s contention that police officers violated the state’s eavesdropping law by recording a conversation between him and his girlfriend without his consent was meritless because the pair had no reasonable expectation of privacy in a police interrogation room. Arizona v. Hauss, 688 P.2d 1051 (Ariz. Ct. App. 1984). Therefore, recording in public places such as streets or parks is allowed absent any consent.

Electronic communications: A person cannot use any device to overhear or record a wire or electronic communication, including wireless or cellular calls, without the consent of at least one party to the conversation, unless the person recording is a party to the conversation. Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 13-3005. Because the provision of the statute dealing with wireless communications applies to “any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data or intelligence” of any nature, consent likewise is required to disclose the contents of text or e-mail messages sent between wireless devices. Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 13-3001.

Hidden cameras: It is unlawful for an individual to photograph, videotape or secretly view a person without consent while the person is in a restroom, locker room, bathroom or bedroom or is undressed or involved in sexual activity, unless the surveillance is for security purposes and notice is posted. Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 13-3019.

Criminal penalties:  Intercepting the contents of any oral or electronic communication without the consent of at least one party is a felony. Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 13-3005. Violation of the state’s hidden camera law is also a felony. Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 13-3019(D). Punishment can range from court fines to sentences of anywhere from six months to more than two years in prison. See Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 13-702, 13-801.

Civil suits: Any person whose communications are illegally intercepted in violation of the state’s eavesdropping laws may bring a civil suit within one year of the discovery of the violation to recover for damages, attorney fees, and any profits made by the person disclosing the information. Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 12-731. In some cases, the court can also assess punitive damages.

Disclosing recordings: Arizona prohibits disclosure or publication of photographs, videotapes or recordings made in violation of the state’s hidden camera law. Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 13-3019(B).