August 1, 2012

Summary of statute(s): An individual who is a party to either an in-person conversation or electronic communication, or who has the consent of one of the parties to the communication, can lawfully record it or disclose its contents, unless the person is doing so for the purpose of committing a criminal or tortious act. Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2933.52 (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 “an oral communication uttered by a person exhibiting an expectation that the communication is not subject to interception under circumstances justifying that expectation.” Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2933.51. 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 “a transfer of a sign, signal, writing, image, sound, datum, or intelligence of any nature,” consent likewise is required to disclose the contents of text messages sent between wireless devices. Id.

Hidden cameras: It is a misdemeanor to trespass or “otherwise surreptitiously invade the privacy of another” to photograph or record the person “in a state of nudity,” and 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. Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2907.08. 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. Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2933.52.

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, $200 a day for each day of violation or $10,000, punitive damages, attorney’s fees, court costs and other relief a judge deems appropriate. Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2933.65.

Disclosing recordings: The statute does not explicitly criminalize the disclosure of the contents of a wire, oral or electronic communication obtained through illegal recording, although “use” of such contents, knowing or having reason to know that they were obtained unlawfully, is a felony. Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2933.52.