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Question: Can you secretly record a conversation?

Posted on June 2, 2015

It is generally understood by most people that conversations can be monitored and recorded by well regulated law enforcement officials.  What is less understood is to what extent an ordinary conversation by two people can be recorded without both parties’ permission.

While you might think that recording a conversation is a good idea, there may be legal consequences depending on the state,.  For example, in New Jersey you need the consent of only one of the parties.  So, if you are having a conversation in which all of the parties are in New Jersey, you may record it if you are party to the conversation or you get permission from one of the parties.  These laws are referred to as “one-party consent” statutes.

What if one of the people involved is located in another state?  Then it is preferable to get permission of all the parties since laws differ from state to state.

Regardless of the State involved, generally it is illegal to record a conversation to which you are not a party or the consent of the recorded parties has not been given. Also be aware that Federal law and most state law also make it illegal to disclose the contents of an illegally recorded call or voice communication.

So let’s imagine an action in real life:  Someone uses their smartphone to record a video with sound of two people having an argument then posts it to YouTube. Is it legal or illegal? If illegal what are the penalties?  Has anyone been damaged by this?  Is it actionable either civilly or criminally?

As the criminal and civil consequences for illegally recording a conversation may be significant, an attorney can provide a comprehensive analysis of the law applicable to a particular situation for anyone who either contemplates recording a conversation, or for anyone who may suspect that he or she has been a party to an illegally recorded one.

Have a Question:  If you have a legal question, you can send an email to: or call Azrak & Associates at (973) 839-9062.


You must not rely on the above information as an alternative to legal advice from an appropriately qualified attorney. This column does not establish an attorney-client relationship. If you have any specific questions about any legal matter you may contact our office.


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