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Digital Recordings And The Law

Like it or not, modern technology has made it easier and more convenient than ever to take photographs, record conversations, and videotape events.  All smart-phones now come equipped with digital audio, video, and photography applications.  With all technological revolutions (devices that can record events and put them on the internet social in real-time are revolutionary), we lose and we gain.  We lose some privacy.  But we gain the ability to protect ourselves from authority and anyone else seeking to cheat, bully, or otherwise act like jerks.

Attorneys often advise clients to make use of their smart-phones or other digital recording technology.  It's a great way to preserve evidence and protect yourself.  Whether it's nasty divorce or a traffic stop gone bad, digital recording devices can protect you.  Use them. 

Unless the law in your jurisdictions says you cannot...

In Missouri, it is completely 100% LEGAL to record any conversation as long as one party to the conversation consents to the recording.  Translation: if you want to record a conversation YOU are having with another person or persons, it's OK!  You cannot, however, as a third party, record a conversation between others unless they consent.  Here's the Missouri law on recorded communications...

"2. It is not unlawful under the provisions of sections 542.400 to 542.422:

(3) For a person not acting under law to intercept a wire communication where such person is a party to the communication or where one of the parties to the communication has given prior consent to such interception unless such communication is intercepted for the purpose of committing any criminal or tortious act."

Our neighbors in Illinois are a little more sensitive about recorded communications.  Illinois is a "two-party" consent state.  Translation:  you CANNOT record a conversation with another person unless both you and the other person are aware and approve that the recording is taking place.  In fact, recording electronic communications without the consent of all parties involved is a felony in the state of Illinois.

So what does Uncle Sam say about recording communications?  The federal government, like Missouri, follows the "one party" consent rule.  As long as one of the parties consents to the recording, it's legal:

"It shall not be unlawful under this chapter for a person not acting under color of law to intercept a wire, oral, or electronic communication where such person is a party to the communication or where one of the parties to the communication has given prior consent to such interception unless such communication is intercepted for the purpose of committing any criminal or tortious act in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States or of any State."

If you are facing an ugly divorce with a crazy, manipulative spouse (and you are in Missouri), record them!  It could prove to be very useful.

If an ex is stalking you or a disgruntled former employee is harassing you and you need evidence to pursue a restraining order, use the digital photo or video app on your phone to catch them in the act.

If you get pulled over by a police officer, use the digital recorder app on your smartphone to record the conversation or take video.  If you have a passenger in the car, have them take video.  The officer may not like it but it is not illegal. 

Whose record of events is going to be presented to a judge or jury?  Unless you are using our handy modern technology, it won't be yours.   

Thanks for reading.

 

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