Recently, Omarosa Manigualt released tapes of conversations she had with coworkers in the Trump administration that were taped without the other parties’ knowledge. In light of this disclosure, some businesses or individuals may think taping conversations is a good idea to prove the truth of statements. For example, a business may want to record a conversation to evidence that a person approved of goods or services or acknowledged a debt. An individual may do the same to document harassment or bad behavior by another person. Businesses or individuals should think twice about doing so because state laws may prohibit such conduct.
The District of Columbia and 49 states (excluding Vermont) have laws governing the recording of oral conversations. Most states, including the District of Columbia, only require one party to a conversation to consent to the recording or disclosure of the conversation. Thus, a business can record or disclose a call or conversation of an employee with that employee’s consent. Likewise, a person can also record a call or conversation that the person is in.
However, some states, including Maryland, require the consent of all parties to record or disclose a conversation. Recording or disclosing the conversation without the required consents may lead to criminal or civil penalties. In Maryland, it is a criminal felony to record or disclose conversations without the consent of all parties. Any person found guilty of this crime can face a prison sentence up to five years, a fine up to $10,000, or both. In addition, the person who did not provide consent can bring a civil action to obtain actual damages up to $1,000, punitive damages, and attorney fees and cost in a successful civil suit. Finally, any recording or disclosure without the required consents cannot be used as evidence in court, an administrative proceeding, or a legislative proceeding. Thus, a business or person who records a conversation as evidence for such a proceeding will not be able to use the recording.
In sum, a business or person should think twice before following Omarosa’s example of recording conversations without the other parties’ consent. You should be aware of the law of the jurisdiction before trying that. You should also consult an attorney to determine how you can record or disclose a conversation without violating the law.
This post is not intended as legal or tax advice, and cannot be relied upon as such advice without consulting an attorney or qualified tax professional.