Iowa

Date: 
August 1, 2012

Summary of statute(s): Iowa has two sets of similar statutes dealing with the interception of oral, telephonic or electronic communications. Both laws bar the recording or interception of such communications by means of any mechanical or electronic device without the consent of at least one party. The state prohibits disclosure of the illegally intercepted contents of such communications. Violators can face both civil and criminal penalties.

In-person conversations:  Iowa’s electronic and mechanical eavesdropping statute makes it a serious misdemeanor for a person to overhear or tape a private conversation to which that person is not openly present and participating or listening, unless consent to record is given by at least one of the parties. Iowa Code Ann. § 727.8. Under the state’s “Interception of Communications” statute, it is a Class D felony to willfully intercept the contents of a confidential oral conversation. The statute, however, expressly permits the recording through the use of any device by either a party to the conversation, or with the consent of at least one party, so long as the recording is done absent any criminal or tortious intent. Iowa Code Ann. § 808B.2.

Electronic communications: Similarly, under the state’s electronic and mechanical eavesdropping statute, a person may record a telephone or communication of any kind if the person listening or recording is a sender or recipient. Failure to get consent is a serious misdemeanor. Iowa Code Ann. § 727.8. Under the state’s “Interception of Communications” statute, it is a Class D felony to willfully intercept any wire or electronic communication absent the consent of at least one party to the communication. Because the provision of the statute dealing with electronic communications applies to “any transfer of signals, signs, writing, images, sounds, data or intelligence of any nature,” consent of at least one party likewise is required to disclose the contents of text or e-mail messages sent between wireless devices. Iowa Code Ann. § 808B.1.

Hidden cameras: The state’s privacy law makes it a serious misdemeanor to secretly view, photograph or film a person who is either fully or partially nude without consent, so long as that subject has a reasonable expectation of privacy. Iowa Code Ann. § 709.21.

Criminal penalties: Felony charges under the state’s Interception of Communications statute carry penalties of up to five years imprisonment and a $7,500 fine. Iowa Code Ann. § 902.9. Serious misdemeanor charges under both the eavesdropping and hidden camera privacy laws carry penalties of up to one year in jail and a $1,875 fine. Iowa Code Ann. § 903.1.

Civil suits: Anyone whose confidential communications are intercepted, disclosed or used in violation of the state’s wiretapping and eavesdropping laws may seek injunctive relief from the court and recover in a civil suit the payment of actual and punitive damages, attorney fees and other litigation costs. Iowa Code Ann. § 808B.8.

Disclosing recordings: Iowa prohibits the disclosure of the contents of any oral, telephonic or other electronic communication if the person knows or has reason to believe the communications were intercepted in violation of the state’s eavesdropping laws. Iowa Code Ann. § 808B.2.