August 1, 2012

Summary of statute(s): All parties must consent to the recording or the disclosure of the contents of any wire, oral or electronic communication in Florida. Disclosing communications in violation of the state’s statute is prohibited. Both criminal and civil penalties exist for such infractions. The state’s video voyeurism law bans the secret recording underneath or through the clothing of individuals without their consent, or in areas where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

In-person conversations:  All parties to any confidential communication must give permission to be recorded, according to Florida’s eavesdropping law. Fla. Stat. § 934.03(2)(d). Under the statute, consent is not required for the taping of an oral communication spoken by a person who does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in that communication. See definition of “oral communication,” Fla. Stat. § 934.02. For example, a speech made by the mayor at the grand opening of a new city park would not create a reasonable expectation of privacy in the contents of that communication.

Electronic communications: It is illegal to tape or overhear a telephone conversation in Florida without the consent of all parties to the conversation. Fla. Stat. § 934.03(2)(d). 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. Fla. Stat. § 934.02(a)(12). Either the parties alleging violation of the wiretap law must be Florida residents or the words of any intercepted private conversation must be spoken in Florida for the all-party consent provision in the statute to apply. See Cohen Brothers, LLC v. ME Corp., S.A., 872 So.2d 321, 324 (Fla. 3d Dist. Ct. App. 2004).

Hidden cameras: The state’s video voyeurism laws prohibit the installation of any imaging devices “to secretly view, broadcast, or record a person, without that person’s knowledge and consent” in circumstances where the person is privately exposing the body in an area where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. Fla. Stat. § 810.145. The law also bans secretly videotaping underneath or through clothing without the subject’s consent. Id.

Criminal penalties:  Recording, disclosing, or endeavoring to disclose without the consent of all parties is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and $5,000 in fines, unless the interception is a first offense committed without any illegal purpose, and not for commercial gain. Fla. Stat. § 934.03(4)(a). In those circumstances, then, such an infraction is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and fines of up to $1,000. Fla. Stat. § 934.03(4)(b). Adults taking or distributing images in violation of the state’s video voyeurism law could face felony charges of up to five years in prison and $5,000 in fines. Fla. Stat. § 810.145.

Civil suits: Anyone whose communications have been illegally intercepted or disclosed may recover actual damages of up to $1,000 for each day of the violation, along with punitive damages, attorney fees and litigation costs. Fla. Stat. § 934.10.

Disclosing recordings: The state prohibits the disclosure of any intercepted oral or electronic communication if that person knows or has reason to know the information was obtained in violation of the state’s wiretapping statutes. Fla. Stat. § 934.03(1)(c). Similar bars exist for individuals who distribute images in violation of the state’s video voyeurism law. Fla. Stat. § 810.145(3), (4).