There are 2 main scenarios regarding Audio Surveillance Laws:

  1. States with One Party Consent Statutes
  2. States with All Parties Consent Statutes

Can Employers Record Audio In Their Workplace?

Many employers inform their employees of recordings taking place in the employees’ handbook, which are then signed and dated. Retail stores post signs of recording taking place for their customers, and that is sufficient.

Before installing audio surveillance systems, parties should study the applicable laws at the local, state, and federal levels. By doing this, it will enable the user to ensure that their methods do not make them guilty of breaking federal wiretapping laws. Check also our guide about video recording laws by state.

Is It Illegal to Have Audio Surveillance at Work?

Audio surveillance at work is legal if recorded parties are aware of it and consent to it. In 12 states, all-parties consent is required for a conversation to be recorded. In 38 states, audio can be recorded if at least one person is aware of it (one-party consent).

Businesses can avoid legal problems if the employer informs the employees that recording is taking place when hiring, and by using a contract that is signed by the employee. Most states do not permit the use of covert audio in:

  • Public areas
  • Public workplaces
  • Public stores

By posting signs, recording can be legal, if the signs state that both video and audio recording is taking place.

Signs are enough to inform people that visual and audio recording is occurring. If they choose to remain in the area, then it means that they are consenting to the conditions.

To be safe, we strongly recommend you to get legal advice about the laws concerning audio surveillance in your specific state. In less than 24h, you can get free quotes from experienced lawyers on UpCounsel’s marketplace (60% savings compared to traditional law firms).

Is It Illegal to Record Someone in Your Own Home?

In some states, it is legal to record someone in your own home as long as one party knows that they are being recorded. These are called “One Party Consent Statutes,” and at least 38 states have them. 

For some of these states however, these laws only apply where “privacy cannot be reasonably expected,” such as in a public place. Whether it is legal to record someone in your own home largely remains a gray area, but at least 24 states have laws against recording in private places.

In most cases, it is not legal to record audio on security cameras unless all parties are aware that you may be recording audio. 

Businesses are required to tell you that they may be recording using video surveillance, and the same applies to audio surveillance.

Most businesses choose to not record audio even if their systems have the capability, because the laws and the actual safety improvements are unclear.

Audio Surveillance State by State Laws

Most states do have laws dealing with eavesdropping and wiretapping, but they generally apply to the electronic recording of all conversations, including conversations on the phone or personal interviews. 

Laws at the federal and state levels make it illegal to reveal the content of any call or communication that was intercepted illegally. 

Some states have made laws against the criminal use of recordings even when consent is given, and as many as 24 states outlaw the use of hidden cameras in private places.

Audio Surveillance Equipment Issues and Legalities

Various kinds of audio surveillance equipment, including surveillance microphones, can make a CCTV camera system even more useful. A microphone enables CCTV users to not only watch what is happening, but they can also hear what words are being said. Adding audio surveillance capability to a CCTV system can help make your business safer, more productive, and secure because it allows owners to hear conversations and helps them protect employees.

Remember though, that while an audio recording could be useful in an investigation or courtroom, most kinds of audio recordings are illegal. Using an audio recording device to record telephone and phone conversations, or conversations in a room or car, is illegal. 

United States Code, Title 18, Section 2510 says that “verbal communication between two people believing that their conversation is not being intercepted is justifiable reason to assume it is not being recorded.” 

In plain words, it means that audio recording is not legal unless both parties know it is taking place.

In order for audio recording to be legal, whether it is in an office, a store, a building, a car, or in a room, all parties must be literally told that recording is occurring, and there must also be a sign posted that clearly reveals that audio recording is taking place. Since audio recording is generally not legal, most people stick to video and picture evidence.

The federal laws dealing with audio recording apply nationwide. Some state and local areas also have their own laws. Before ever installing an audio recording device, you need to know all the laws that apply. When recording a private conversation, the individual or company responsible could be charged not only with eavesdropping, but also wiretapping. Many states do permit recording though if at least and only one party is aware of it.

Caution must also be used when placing video and audio recording systems, because there are some places where individuals do not want to be recorded, such as but not limited to:

  • bathrooms, 
  • dressing rooms, 
  • showers, 
  • and more.

Additionally, some states permit video surveillance but not audio. When using a camera that has a built-in microphone, audio should not be turned on. An alternative is to buy a replacement that does not have a microphone at all, to avoid any future problems or accusations.

There are 38 states, and the District of Columbia, that allow individuals to record conversations with their knowledge, but do not require them to tell the other party. This law is called a “one-party consent” statute.

Alabama law (Ala. Code,13A-11-30 (1) & 13A-11-31) states that it is illegal to record, or even to overhear, any conversation through “any device” without at least one person consenting to the recording who is engaged in the conversation.

Alaska (Alaska Stat., 42.20.310) has similar laws in effect and makes it a misdemeanor.

Arizona law (Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann..13-3005 (A)(1) & (2)) makes it a class 5 felony to intercept a communication of which they are not a party, or to aid someone else in doing so.

Arkansas law (Ark. Code Ann.,5-80-120(a)) makes it illegal to intercept or record any conversation, whether oral, wire, or phone, unless the person recording is part of the conversation or has given permission.

Colorado law (Colo. Rev. Stat., 18-9-303(1)) makes it a felony to record or intercept a phone or electronic communication without getting the consent of at least one person in the conversation. News media personnel may use approved tools and various equipment to investigate newsworthy events.

Delaware law (Del. Code. Ann. tit. 11, § 1335(a)(4) & 11,2402(c)(4)) has conflicting rules about whether it is legal or not to record another person’s conversation with or without consent of one party.

The District of Columbia’s laws (D.C. Code. Ann. 23-542(b)(3)) prevent anyone who pretends to be an agent of the law from intercepting an oral communication or wire.

Georgia law (Ga. Code Ann. 16-11-62 & 16-11-66(a)) makes it a felony to record a private conversation in a private place. Recording is allowed if one of the parties is knowledgeable or if one party has given consent.

Hawaii law (Haw. Rev. Stat.803-42(b)(3)(A)) says recording a conversation is legal if one person in the conversation knows about the recording or has given consent.

Idaho law (Idaho Code 18-6702(d)) says it is legal to intercept a communication as long as those involved have approved of it.

Indiana law (Ind. Code Ann. 35-33.5-1-5(2)) states that only the sender or receiver may record a conversation, or acquire the contents of it.

Iowa law (Iowa Code Ann.808B.2(2)(c)) says that a listener or sender of the information must be openly present and a participant of the conversation, but it does not require the other party to be aware of it.

Kansas law (Kan. Stat. Ann. 21-4002(a)(1)) prohibits eavesdropping in conversations without having obtained consent of the user of the device. The highest court in Kansas permits one-party consent, and it may not be challenged in court.

Kentucky law (Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. 526.010 & 526.020) states that eavesdropping is illegal if a device of any type is used. It is considered a Class D felony.

Louisiana law (La. Rev. Stat. 15:1303(b)(4)) states that any conversation can be recorded as long as the individual is a party to it or if consent has been given.

Maine law (Ma. Rev. Stat. 15:1303(b)(4)) makes it a Class C crime to hear, record, or help another person to hear a wire of oral communication with the use of a device.

Minnesota law (Minn. Stat. Ann 626A.02 subd. 2(d)) makes it legal to record or intercept a communication as long as the person is a party in the conversation or have given consent.

Mississippi law (Miss. Code Ann. 41-29-531(e)) states that a communication cannot be intercepted or recorded unless they are a party in the conversation or have given consent.

Missouri law (Mo. Ann. Stat. 542.402(2)(3)) states that a party to the communication, or if they have given consent, can record it and disclose the contents.

Nebraska law (Neb. Rev. Stat. 86-290(2)(c)) says that consent must be given, or the individual recording it must be a party to the conversation.

Nevada generally has a one-party consent rule. The Supreme Court in the state has said that it is an all-party rule, meaning all parties of the conversation must give consent.

New Jersey law (N.J. Rev. Stat. §2A:156A-4(d)) makes it illegal to intercept any communication, with the exception that the person be a party in the conversation, or give consent.

New Mexico law (N.M. Stat. Ann 30-12-1(C) & (E)) states that it is necessary to obtain consent of the party involved, before interfering with the communication, which has been interpreted as consent to sending the information.

New York law (N.Y. Penal Law,250.00(1) & 250.05) says that it is illegal to wiretap without the consent of one person involved in the conversation. This also applies to mobile phones.

North Carolina law (N.C.Gen Stat.15A-287(a)) says that it is a Class H felony to intercept communications without having the consent of at least one person involved in the communication. It is also illegal to hire someone else to do it.

North Dakota law (N.D. Gen Stat.15A-287(a)) states it is a Class C felony to intercept a communication without the consent of at least one of the parties.

Ohio law (Ohio Rev. Code Ann. 2933.52(B)(4)) says it is not a crime to record or intercept if one person involved in the conversation gives consent.

Oklahoma law (Okla.Stat. Ann.tit. 12.176.4(5)) states that it is not a crime when consent has been given, or when the one recording is involved in the conversation.

Oregon law (Or. Rev. Stat.165.543) says it is a Class A misdemeanor if one party of the conversation does not give consent. The courts in Oregon, however, have said that all parties involved must know.

Rhode Island law (R.I. Gen. Laws 11-35-21(c)(3)) states that it is illegal to intercept or record a conversation unless one party provides consent.

South Carolina does not have a law about it, but says that a communication may be recorded if consent is given. Consent is not needed (18 U.S.C 2511 (2)(d)) for recording where no privacy can be expected.

South Dakota law (S.D. Codified Laws Ann. §23A-35A-20(1)) states that one person may record a conversation if they are present, and consent is not needed. Consent is not necessary for non-electronic communications where privacy may not be expected.

Tennessee law (Tenn. Code Ann. §39-13-601(b)(5)) states that a person who is a party of the conversation can record a conversation, or if they have been given consent. A non-electronic conversation may be recorded if privacy cannot be expected.

Texas law (Tex. Penal Code Ann. §16.02(c)(4)(A)&(B)) states that recording may occur by anyone involved in the conversation or where consent has been granted by one person.

Utah law (Utah Code Ann. §§77-23a-4(7)(b)) says that a conversation can be recorded if it is done by someone in the conversation, or when consent is given by one participant. Consent is not required for oral communications where privacy cannot be expected.

Virginia law (Va. Code Ann. § 19.2-62.) states that a participant in a conversation may record it, or if one member of the party gives consent.

West Virginia law (W. Va. Code §62-1D-3(e)) says that recording is legal, as is disclosing the information when they are a participant or have been given permission from one participant.

Wisconsin law (Wis. Stat Ann. §§968.31(c) &885.365(1)) states that a party in the conversation may record it, or when permission has been given by one party.

Wyoming law (Wyo. Stat. §7-3-702(b)(iv)) says it is legal for one member of the conversation to record, or when one party gives consent.

Vermont has no laws about it, but the highest court (18 U.S.C. 2511(2)(d) says that using electronic monitoring of conversations in someone’s home is an illegal invasion of privacy.

There are 12 states in the U.S. where recording cannot be legally done without the consent of every member of the conversation. 

States that have this law are:

  • Michigan
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Massachusetts
  • Maryland
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • Pennsylvania
  • Nevada
  • Washington

Audio Surveillance Cameras on Public Buses

The question of permitting audio recording with cameras on public buses came about in 2009. The Maryland Transit Authority asked the state attorney general about the issue, and it quickly became public. Efforts were made to stop it, and although cameras have been permitted for several years, no audio recording has been done. Some say that it is needed for safety purposes, but it has not yet been seen how it could actually increase safety.

So far, the state’s attorney has directed the company to not turn the audio recording devices on.

If you need help in understanding the laws concerning audio surveillance laws by state, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel’s marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers from UpCounsel come from schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law, and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.