August 1, 2012

Summary of statute(s): Minnesota bars the recording, interception, use or disclosure of any oral, telephonic or electronic communication by means of any mechanical or electronic device without the consent of at least one party to the conversation. The state also prohibits the recording and disclosure of images intercepted in violation of its hidden camera laws. Violators can face both civil and criminal penalties.

In-person conversations: It is legal for a person to record an oral conversation if that person is a party to the communication, or if one of the parties has consented to the recording — so long as no criminal or tortious intent accompanies the recording. Minn. Stat. § 626A.02.

Electronic communications: A person cannot willfully intercept or record any telephone, wire or electronic communication unless that person is either a participant or has the consent of at least one party to the communication. Minn. Stat. § 626A.02. Because the provision of the statute dealing with electronic 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. Id.

Hidden cameras: The state’s privacy law prohibits trespassing on private property to secretly install or use any type of device for “observing, photographing, recording, amplifying or broadcasting sounds or events” either another person’s home, a hotel room, tanning booth or any location where a person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy and either has undressed or will likely expose some part of the naked body. Minn. Stat. § 609.746.

Criminal penalties: Unlawful recordings, or disclosure of their contents when there is reason to know the information was obtained illegally, carry maximum penalties of imprisonment for five years and fines of $20,000. Minn. Stat. § 626A.02. Violation of the state’s hidden camera law is a felony punishable by up to two years imprisonment and a $5,000 fine. Minn. Stat. § 609.746.

Civil suits: In addition, civil liability for violations statutorily can include three times the amount of actual damages or statutory damages of up to $10,000, as well as punitive damages, litigation costs and attorney fees. Minn. Stat. § 626A.13.

Disclosing recordings: A person may not disclose or use the contents of any intercepted communication if that person either knows or has reason to know it was obtained in violation of the state’s wiretapping laws. Minn. Stat. § 626A.02.