North Carolina

Date: 
August 1, 2012

Summary of statute(s): An individual who has the consent of one of the parties to either an in-person conversation or electronic communication can lawfully record it or disclose its contents. N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 15A-287 (West 2012).

In-person conversations: The consent of at least one party to a conversation is required to record an “oral communication,” which is defined as “any oral communication uttered by a person exhibiting an expectation that such communication is not subject to interception under circumstances justifying such expectation, but the term does not include any electronic communication.” N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 15A-286. Thus, a journalist does not need consent to record conversations in public where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.

Electronic communications: The consent of at least one party to any telephone communication is required to record it. And 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 messages sent between wireless devices. Id.

Interpreting the definition of “consent,” a state appellate court held that implied consent to a recording occurs when a party is warned of the monitoring and still continues with the conversation. North Carolina v. Price, 611 S.E.2d 891 (N.C. Ct. App. 2005).

Hidden cameras: It is a felony to photograph or record, “for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of any person,” a person in a room where the person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, to use a hidden camera, regardless of whether a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, to “up-skirt” or “down-blouse,” or secretly photograph or record that person under or through his or her clothing, and to disclose any images obtained by these means. N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 14-202. The law, however, does not criminalize the use of recording devices for other purposes in areas to which the public has access or there is no reasonable expectation of privacy (i.e., filming conversations on public streets or a hotel lobby).

Criminal penalties: Illegally recording an in-person conversation or electronic communication is a felony offense. N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 15A-287.

Civil suits: Anyone whose wire, oral or electronic communication has been recorded or disclosed in violation of the law can bring a civil suit to recover the greater of actual damages, $100 a day for each day of violation or $1,000, and can recover punitive damages, attorney’s fees and court costs as well. N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 15A-296.

Disclosing recordings: Disclosing the contents of a wire, oral or electronic communication obtained through illegal recording is a felony. N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 15A-287.