DISCLAIMER: the information provided below must be used only for informational purposes. Please consult your legal team if you have specific questions or concerns regarding the compliance with any relevant laws.
Generally, recording someone without their permission is illegal. However, it depends much on local laws and the circumstances around the recording.
What Does Federal Law Say?
According to the Federal law, you can tape conversations ? both in-person and over the phone (by the way, call recording is pretty easy with the help of special apps) ? if at least one person involved in the conversation is aware that he is being recorded and has allowed you to do so. So, it means that if you?re involved in the dialogue, you can tape yourself without needing to let anyone else know. But note that while most states fall in with the Federal law, some states do have specific laws to protect the privacy of everyone involved in the conversation.
Do State Laws Allow Us to Record Conversations?
In most states it is legal to record conversations and phone calls with one-party consent. One-party consent states are Arizona, District of Columbia, Alabama, Arkansas, Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Georgia, Iowa, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Kansas, Maine, Louisiana, Missouri, New York, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, Nebraska, New Mexico, New Jersey, North Dakota, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Oklahoma, Tennessee, South Dakota, West Virginia, Utah, Texas, Virginia, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
The following states require permission from all participants of conversation under various circumstances: Connecticut, Delaware, California, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, Florida, New Hampshire, Maryland, Montana, and Washington.
This map of the United States shows which states require one-party consent, and which states require the permission of all parties when you want to record a call or in-person conversation.
One-Party and Two-Party Consent States
Facts You Should Know About Some of the States:
Under New Jersey law, in-person or telephone conversations may be recorded with a single party consent as long as the recording is not made with criminal intent. Illegal recording is a crime in the third degree and can also provide the basis for civil damages.
You need to get one-party consent in Hawaii, but the law requires two-party consent if the recorder is installed in a private place.
In Florida, it is illegal to tape a conversation when you don?t have all participants? permission. Violating this law constitutes either a misdemeanor or a third degree felony depending on the offender?s intent and conviction history.
Massachusetts law forbids ?secret? recordings. In fact, it doesn?t require explicit permission from all participants of conversation.
In Nevada it is forbidden to secretly tape a communication without letting at least one participant know that he is being recorded. Note that all the participants of a phone conversation must agree to be recorded. So, illicit recording is a criminal offense in Nevada.
As you see, in most states, both party consent requirements apply in situations where the participants expect privacy (e.g. not in a public place).
Can We Record the Police or Other Government Officials?
Note that it depends on the circumstances if you can legally record policemen or other public officials. You can openly tape the activities of government officials in public, as long as you don?t hinder them or break the law.
So, if you are not sure if your state laws and the circumstances of the conversation allow you to record other people, it?s better to notify the other party that your conversation is being recorded. Otherwise, you?ll give the injured party a civil claim for money damages against you, or you?ll even expose yourself to the risk of criminal prosecution.