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 in-person conversations without consent is a misdemeanor, although the state makes an allowance for recording by news media in some situations. Intercepting electronic communications without at least one party’s consent and disclosing information gained through such means are both felony crimes under the state’s wiretapping law.

In-person conversations: The consent of at least one participant to a conversation is required before any recording can take place under the state’s eavesdropping law. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-9-304. Colorado specifically carves out an exemption for news media from its eavesdropping and wiretapping statutes, stating that its laws are not to be “interpreted to prevent a news agency, or an employee thereof, from using the accepted tools and equipment of that news medium in the course of reporting or investigating a public and newsworthy event.” Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-9-305.

Electronic communications: The consent of at least one party is required to record or intercept a telephone conversation or any electronic communication, according to the state’s wiretapping statute. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-9-303. 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. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-9-301.

Hidden cameras: The state prohibits under its privacy laws anyone from knowingly observing or taking any visual images of another person’s body without consent in situations where the subject of the filming or photography has a reasonable expectation of privacy. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-7-801.

Criminal penalties: Disclosing information obtained illegally, as well as violations of the state’s wiretapping statute are both felonies punishable by a fine of between $1,000 and $100,000 and one year to 18 months in jail. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-1.3-401. Recording communication from a cordless telephone, however, is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and six to 18 months in jail. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-1.3-501. Violations of the eavesdropping statute carry similar penalties, while violators of the state’s hidden camera law can face misdemeanor charges carrying a sentence of up to one year in jail and fines up to $1,000. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-9-304.

Disclosing recordings: Using or disclosing information obtained through illegal wiretapping is a felony, if there is reason to know the information was obtained illegally. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-9-304.