Skip to content

Telephone and electronic communications

Posts

  • Alabama

    Alabama’s criminal eavesdropping law prohibits the use of “any device” to overhear or record communications without the consent of at least one party engaged in the communication being recorded. Ala. Code §13A-11-31.

    view more
  • Alaska

    Using a device to record conversations over electronic communications such as telephones is allowed with the consent of at least one party to the conversation. Alaska Stat. Ann. § 42.20.310(b). That consent includes that of the reporter initiating such electronic communication.

    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 of at least one party likewise is required to disclose the contents of text or email messages sent between wireless devices. Alaska Stat. Ann. § 42.20.390.

    view more
  • Arizona

    A person cannot use any device to overhear or record a telephone or electronic communication, including wireless or cellular calls, without the consent of at least one party to the conversation, unless the person recording is a party to the conversation. Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 13-3005.

    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 of at least one party likewise is required to disclose the contents of text or email messages sent between wireless devices. Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 13-3001.

    view more
  • Arkansas

    Similarly, intercepting or recording any wire, landline, cellular or cordless phone conversation is illegal unless the person recording is a party to the conversation or at least one of the parties has given consent. Ark. Code Ann. § 5-60-120.

    Arkansas law also criminalizes the “interception” of a message transmitted by telephone in its public utility laws. Ark. Code Ann. § 23-17-107.

    view more
  • California

    California’s eavesdropping law requires the consent of all parties to record a confidential communication, including those conducted by “telephone, or other device, except a radio.” Cal. Penal Code § 632(a). The law, however, specifically excludes from its application any conversations occurring in public places or government proceedings open to the public, or where the participants could reasonably expect to be overheard or recorded. Cal. Penal Code § 632(c).

    The eavesdropping law has a separate provision that applies regardless of confidentiality to calls that involve at least one cellphone or cordless phone, as opposed to calls exclusively through landline phones. Cal. Penal Code § 632.7. Courts disagree on whether that provision requires only third-party eavesdroppers to obtain the consent of all participants to the call before recording or if it also requires the participants themselves to obtain consent from everyone before recording. See Smith v. LoanMe, Inc., 257 Cal. Rptr. 3d 61, 62 (Cal. Ct. App. 2019) (collecting cases and finding that § 632.7 permits parties to a call to record without consent of the other parties). In April 2020, the California Supreme Court — the final authority on interpreting state law — granted a petition to review Smith v. LoanMe, Inc. and consider the consent requirements for cellphones and cordless phones under this separate provision.

    Additionally, the state’s wiretap law makes it a crime for a third party to intentionally tap or make any unauthorized connection to telephone conversations or to read the contents of any text messages or emails while the messages are in transit over the telephone wire without the consent of all parties involved. Cal. Penal Code § 631.

    view more
  • Colorado

    The consent of at least one party is required to overhear or record a telephone conversation or any electronic communication, according to the state’s wiretapping statute. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-9-303.

    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 of at least one party likewise is required to read or copy the contents of text or email messages sent between electronic devices. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-9-301.

    view more
  • Connecticut

    The state’s eavesdropping law makes it a crime to record a phone conversation without the consent of at least one party to the call. Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 53a-187, -189.

    The state also imposes civil penalties for recording telephone calls without first obtaining all parties’ consent either in writing or verbally (and recorded), or with a recorded warning that the conversation is being recorded. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-570d.

    view more
  • Delaware

    There is a conflict in the state’s laws on recording phone calls, so it is advisable to follow the stricter law and obtain consent first from all parties.

    The state’s privacy law requires the consent of all parties to intercept a telephone conversation or other private communications, though at least one federal court has held that one party can record her own conversation without permission of the other parties. Del. Code Ann. tit. 11, § 1335(a)(4); see United States v. Vespe, 389 F. Supp. 1359 (D. Del. 1975).

    The state’s wiretapping law, however, says it is “lawful” to record or intercept any electronic communication such as a telephone call with the consent of at least one party to the conversation. Del. Code Ann. tit. 11, § 2402(c)(4). And because the provision of the wiretapping statute dealing with wireless communications applies to “any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data or intelligence” of any nature, consent of at least one party is required to disclose the contents of text or email messages sent between wireless devices. Del. Code Ann. tit. 11, § 2401(5).

    view more
  • District of Columbia

    Intercepting or recording any “wire,” or landline phone conversations, is illegal unless the person recording is a party to the conversation or at least one of the parties has given consent. D.C. Code § 23-542.

    The D.C. Court of Appeals has also applied the law to cellphone conversations. See Thomas v. United States, 171 A.3d 151 (D.C. App. 2017).

    view more
  • Florida

    It is illegal to record or intercept 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 of all parties likewise is required to disclose the contents of text or email messages sent between cellphones and other electronic devices. Fla. Stat. § 934.02(a)(12).

    view more
  • Georgia

    Similarly, a person who is either a participant in a telephone or other electronic communication, or with consent from one of the participants, is allowed to record or intercept any such communication. Ga. Code Ann. §§ 16-11-62, -66(a).

    Like some other states, Georgia’s wiretapping and eavesdropping statutes specifically allow for a parent or guardian to secretly record or listen to telephone conversations of minor children without consent for the purpose of ensuring their welfare. Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-66(d).

    view more
  • Hawaii

    A person who is either a participant in a telephone, cellphone or other electronic communication, or with consent from one of the participants, is allowed to record or intercept any such communication. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 803-42(b)(3)(A).

    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 email messages sent between electronic devices. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 803-41.

    view more
  • Idaho

    Recording conversations over wire or electronic communications — such as telephones, including cellphones — is allowed with the consent of at least one party to the conversation. Idaho Code Ann. § 18-6702(2)(d).

    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 from at least one party to disclose the contents of text or email messages sent between electronic devices. Idaho Code Ann. § 18-6701(10).

    view more
  • Illinois

    The law makes it a felony to intercept, record or transcribe any private telephone or electronic communication unless all parties give their consent. 720 Ill. Compiled Stat. 5/14-1, -2. 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 from all parties to disclose the contents of text or email messages sent between electronic devices. 720 Ill. Compiled Stat. 5/14-1(e).

    view more
  • Indiana

    The statute makes it a felony to intercept or record any telephone or electronic communication using a device unless at least one party gives their consent. Ind. Code Ann. § 35-31.5-2-176, -33.5-5-5(b).

    Because the provision of the statute dealing with electronic communications applies to “any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data, oral communication, digital information, or intelligence of any nature” made “by a wire, a radio, or an electromagnetic, a photoelectronic, or a photo-optical system,” consent likewise is required from at least one party to disclose the contents of text or email messages sent between wireless devices. Ind. Code Ann. § 35-31.5-2-110.

    view more
  • Iowa

    Under the state’s eavesdropping law, a person may record a telephone or communication of any kind if she or he is a party to the conversation. Iowa Code Ann. § 727.8.

    Under the state’s “Interception of Communications” law, it is a felony to willfully intercept any wire or electronic communication absent the consent of at least one party to the communication. Iowa Code Ann. § 808B.2(2)(c). 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” sent by “wire, radio, electromagnetic, photoelectronic or photooptical system,” consent of at least one party likewise is required to disclose the contents of text or email messages sent between wireless devices. Iowa Code Ann. § 808B.1.

    view more
  • Kansas

    The state’s breach of privacy law makes it a misdemeanor to intercept any message sent “by telephone, telegraph, letter or other means of private communication” without the consent of at least one party to the communication. Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-6101(a)(1).

    A Kansas intermediate appellate court has held that the interception must occur while the message is in transit—such as through a telephone wiretap—and thus found that reviewing emails months after they were sent did not violate the law. State v. Brooks, 265 P.3d 1175, 1190 (Kan. Ct. Apps. 2011), rev'd on other grounds, 317 P.3d 54 (Kan. 2014).

    view more
  • Kentucky

    The eavesdropping law makes it a felony to intercept  any telephone conversation without the consent of at least one party. Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 526.010.

    view more
  • Louisiana

    The Electronic Surveillance Act prohibits the willful interception of any telephone or electronic communication absent the consent of at least one party to the conversation. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15:1303. The law defines “electronic communication” to specifically include “cordless, portable, or cellular telephone communication.” La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15:1302(8).

    Additionally, because the provision of the law dealing with electronic communications applies to “any transfer of signs, signals, writings, images, sounds, data, or intelligence of any nature” sent by “a wire, radio, electromagnetic, photoelectronic, or photo-optical system,” consent of at least one party likewise is required to disclose the contents of text or email messages sent between electronic devices. Id.

    view more
  • Maine

    Similarly, the statute prohibits the willful or intentional interception of — or having another person intercept — any telephone or other wire communication absent the consent of at least one party to the communication. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 15, § 710.

    view more
  • Maryland

    The Maryland Wiretap Act makes it a felony to record any telephone or electronic communication unless one is a party to the communication and all other parties give their consent. Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 10-402(c)(3). Telephone conversations are protected by the Wiretap Act regardless of whether the parties have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Fearnow v. Chesapeake & Potomac Tel. Co., 655 A.2d 1, 18 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 1995), aff'd in part, rev'd in part, 342 Md. 363, 676 A.2d 65 (1996), and abrogated on other grounds by Deibler v. State, 776 A.2d 657 (Md. 2001).

    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 from all parties to intercept the contents of text or email messages sent between electronic devices. Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 10-401(5). However, courts have held that an interception must occur at the time the communication is in transit for the Wiretap Act to apply, and thus the law does not apply to a person accessing text messages stored on a phone after they were sent and received. Martin v. State, 96 A.3d 765, 776 (Md. 2014) (noting also that merely accessing texts stored on the cellphone did not require the use of an interception device, which is required for the Wiretap Act to apply).

    view more
  • Massachusetts

    Massachusetts makes it a felony to use a device to hear or record any telephone call unless all parties give their consent. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 272, § 99(C). This includes phone calls and text messages made via cellphone. Massachusetts v. Moody, 993 N.E.2d 715 (Mass. 2013).

    view more
  • Michigan

    The eavesdropping law also applies to private conversations occurring over the telephone, so participants may not record such phone calls without the consent of all other parties. Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.539c.

    The state also makes it a felony to “make any unauthorized connection with” or “read or copy any message from any telegraph, telephone line, wire, cable, computer network, computer program, or computer system, or telephone or other electronic medium of communication that the person accessed without authorization.” Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.540. Therefore, consent likewise is required to read or copy the contents of text or email messages sent between telephones or other electronic devices devices. Id.

    view more
  • Minnesota

    A person cannot intentionally intercept or record any telephone or electronic communication unless that person is either a participant or has the consent of at least one party to the communication — so long as the recording is not done for a criminal or tortious purpose. Minn. Stat. § 626A.02(2)(d).

    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 of at least one party likewise is required to disclose the contents of text or email messages sent between electronic devices. Id.

    view more
  • Mississippi

    The statute prohibits recording any telephone or other communication unless that person is either a participant or has the consent of at least one party to the communication. Miss. Code Ann. § 41-29-531(e). This applies to cellphones, fax machines and computers, and consent may likewise be required to copy the contents of text or email messages sent between these devices to which parties have a reasonable expectation of privacy. See definitions of “wire communication” and “other communication,” Miss. Code Ann. § 41-29-501(n), (k); see also Miss. Code Ann. § 97-25-49.

    view more
  • Missouri

    A person may record a telephone or other wire communication to which they are a participant or have consent of one of the parties to the communication, unless the recording is made “for the purpose of committing any criminal or tortious act.” Mo. Ann. Stat. § 542.402.2(3).

    A “wire communication” is one that is transmitted wholly or partly by the aid of “wire, cable, or other like connection between the point of origin and the point of reception.” Mo. Ann. Stat. § 542.400.12. Thus, one appellate court found that the law applies to a telephone conversation between a person using a cellular phone and one using a landline phone, Lee v. Lee, 967 S.W.2d 82 (Mo. Ct. App. 1998), but another state appellate court held that radio broadcasts from cordless telephones — before the broadcasts go through the phone line — are not wire communications subject to the eavesdropping law. Missouri v. King, 873 S.W.2d 905 (Mo. Ct. App. 1994).

    Missouri courts have not yet determined whether the law would apply to conversations and text messages between two people using cellphones or other wireless devices, though some other states’ courts have found these communications to be made by the aid of “wire, cable, or other like connection.” See, e.g., Sharpe v. Nevada, 350 P.3d 388 (Nev. 2015).

    view more
  • Montana

    Montana’s “privacy in communications” law makes it unlawful to record a telephone conversation without the knowledge of all parties. Mont. Code Ann. § 45-8-213(1)(c).

    The prohibition does not apply, however, to: 1) recordings by an elected or appointed public official or public employee when the recording occurs in the performance of an official duty; 2) recordings of individuals speaking at public meetings; 3) recordings of individuals given a warning of the recording; and 4) recordings of certain healthcare emergency communications, when the recording is made by the health care facility. Mont. Code Ann. § 45-8-213(2)(a).

    The Montana Supreme Court held that a prison’s notification to inmates that their telephone conversations were subject to recording satisfied the warning requirement, and thus recordings of a criminal defendant’s telephone conversations with others did not violate the law. Montana v. DuBray, 77 P.3d 247 (Mont. 2003).

    The statute also prohibits the recording of an electronic communication without the consent of all parties. Mont. Code. Ann. § 45-8-213(3). This provision applies to any transfer “of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data, or intelligence of any nature,” and thus would include texts or emails. Mont. Code Ann. § 45-8-213(4).

    view more
  • Nebraska

    To record any telephone or electronic communication, an individual must be a party to that conversation or receive consent from at least one of the parties. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 86-290.

    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 from at least one party likewise is required to disclose the contents of text messages or emails sent between electronic devices. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 86-276.

    However, consent is inadequate if the recording is done for a criminal or tortious purpose. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 86-290.

    view more
  • Nevada

    Nevada requires an individual to get the consent of all parties to a telephone call before it may be recorded. Nev. Rev. Stat. § 200.620. Additionally, the Nevada Supreme Court held that this requirement also applies to both cellphone calls and text messages. Sharpe v. Nevada, 350 P.3d 388 (Nev. 2015).

    The law permits an exception in emergencies, but the Nevada Supreme Court stated that the one-party-consent recording authorized in those situations applies mainly to law enforcement officers who proceed without a warrant. Lane v. Allstate Ins. Co., 969 P.2d 938 (Nev. 1998). Thus, it is unlikely to serve as a defense for journalists who record phone conversations without the required all-party consent.

    view more
  • New Hampshire

    It is unlawful to record any telephone call without first obtaining the consent of all participants. N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 570-A:2.

    Because the law applies to “any form of information,” oral or written, transmitted electronically, the consent of all parties likewise may be required to record the contents of text messages and emails. Id. However, the New Hampshire Supreme Court has held that senders of emails and online instant messages implicitly consent for those communications to be recorded because the recording of such a message is necessary for its recipient to read the communication. New Hampshire v. Lott, 879 A.2d 1167, 1172 (N.H. 2005).

    More generally, the New Hampshire Supreme Court has held that a party effectively consented to the recording of a communication when the surrounding circumstances demonstrated that the party knew the communication was being recorded. New Hampshire v. Locke, 761 A.2d 376, 381 (N.H. 1999), superseded by statute on other groundssee also Fischer v. Hooper, 732 A.2d 396, 405 (N.H. 1999) (finding that a jury should consider not only a defendant’s words but also her actions in determining whether she consented to the recording of her conversation).

    view more
  • New Jersey

    The consent of at least one party to any telephone or electronic communication is required to record it, unless the person is doing so for the purpose of committing a criminal or tortious act. N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 2A:156A-3, -4.

    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 of at least one party likewise is required to disclose the contents of text messages sent between cellphones. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:156A-2.

    view more
  • New York

    The consent of at least one party to any telephone or electronic communication, including those through a cellphone, is required to record it. N.Y. Penal Law §§ 250.00, 250.05; Sharon v. Sharon, 558 N.Y.S.2d 468, 470 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 1990) (holding that the law applies to cellphones and cordless phones).

    Because the provision of the law dealing with electronic communications applies to “any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data, or intelligence of any nature,” consent of at least one party likewise is required to disclose the contents of text messages and emails. N.Y. Penal Law § 250.00. At least one state court, however, has held the law only applies to communications “in transit,” and thus does not apply to messages — such as emails — stored after they are sent or received. People v. Thompson, 28 N.Y.S.3d 237, 244 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2016).

    view more
  • Pennsylvania

    It is unlawful to record or otherwise intercept any telephone or electronic communication without first obtaining the consent of all participants. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§ 5703, 5704(4). The law covers telephone and electronic communications regardless of the parties’ expectation of privacy. Commonwealth v. Deck, 954 A.2d 603, 609 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2008).

    The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has held, however, that parties to emails, chats or text messages may record those conversations without the consent of the other parties. Commonwealth v. Cruttenden, 58 A.3d 95, 96 (Pa. 2012) (citing Commonwealth v. Proetto, 771 A.2d 823 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2001)). Unlike with telephone calls, parties to these conversations know by their very nature that they are likely to be recorded and thus have consented to that recording by participating in the conversation. Id. at 98.

    Third parties who are not participants in text message or email conversations cannot intercept or record those conversations without the consent of all participants. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5703. However, the state's intermediate appellate court has held that sharing text messages after they have been received does not require consent, because the law only applies to interceptions that occur at the same time as the transmission or receipt of the message. See Commonwealth v. Diego, 119 A.3d 370 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2015) (distinguishing a simultaneous interception from a scenario in which a third party reads the text messages over the receiver's shoulder as they are received).

    view more