The best Connecticut criminal lawyers and attorneys in Stamford, Greenwich, Darien and Westport Connecticut get this question all the time: is it against the law for a party to a phone call to secretly record the phone call without the other caller’s knowledge or consent? The legal questions arises often among the best Greenwich and Stamford Connecticut divorce and family lawyers who are embroiled in nasty below-the-belt divorces. Top Connecticut criminal lawyers get retained to consult on eavesdropping issues in the course of bitter business litigations and disputes where secret phone recordings mysteriously pop up in discovery. And if you’re a top Greenwich, Stamford or Connecticut divorce lawyer or family attorney and need to advise your client on whether it’s legal to secretly record phone conversations, then you should have a handle on Connecticut—as well as federal—eavesdropping laws.
So what’s the latest on Connecticut and federal eavesdropping and recording laws? A quick primer is offered below…
When it comes to secretly recording phone calls in Connecticut, you need to appreciate that both state and federal laws both apply to your conduct. State laws are enforced by your local police department and the state’s attorney office in your jurisdiction. Federal wiretapping laws are enforced by the FBI and U.S. Attorneys office.
Connecticut State Eavesdropping Criminal Laws – We’re a One-Party Consent State (for now)
Criminally, under Connecticut General Statutes § 53a-187, it’s against the law to record a telephone communication or a communication made by a person other than a sender or receiver, without the consent of either the sender or receiver. You must be able to prove consent, so be sure to have that part of the phone call recorded (obviously if you’re the participant in the conversation and are recording, then consent is implied). A violation of this crime is considered eavesdropping under C.G.S. § 53a-189 and is a class D felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
Civilly, pursuant to C.G.S § 52-570d, you are not allowed to record an oral private telephone conversation without consent from all of the parties to the conversation. So it’s illegal in a civil context, meaning there’s civil, not criminal, liability. And if you are a victim of eavesdropping in Connecticut, you can actually sue the recorder in Superior Court for money damages (that is, if there are any damages, such as when someone who puts your phone call on the internet or on TMZ to get you fired from your job). You can also get attorneys’ fees from the eavesdropper.
As I mentioned, federal law also applies, specifically the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, codified in 18 U.S.C.A. § 2510-2511. The ECPA permits one party to a conversation to record a phone call without the other party’s consent or knowledge; HOWEVER, it is against the law to do so if the recording or interception is done to further a criminal or tortious act. (This last caveat as specified in 18 U.S.C. § 2511(2)(d) is extremely broad and ambiguous, so be sure to run your situation by your attorney before engaging in this type of eavesdropping conduct).
Before acting on any of the thoughts in this article, it is critical that you—whether you’re a top Connecticut divorce lawyer, top Connecticut private investigator, or just an ordinary civilian—get the formal opinion of any of the best Connecticut criminal lawyers or attorneys who have experience in Connecticut eavesdropping and wiretapping laws. Every case is different, and reading an article on the internet is NOT a defense to a Connecticut arrest for eavesdropping or wiretapping. Moreover, there are special eavesdropping rules for law enforcement, so nothing below applies to the police, FBI, or any other state or federal government agents and actors. So treat this information as background, but not advice or a green light, on recording phone calls without consent. The stakes are just too high to your reputation not to seek proper legal advice from a top Stamford, Greenwich or Connecticut criminal law firm on any eavesdropping or wiretapping issues.
So before you go ahead and tape your spouse, significant other, boss or business partner, or if you’re a top Connecticut divorce lawyer or top Connecticut family attorney and you need to counsel your client on whether it’s legal for your client to secretly record or wiretap their phone calls, be sure to contact one of the experienced eavesdropping attorneys at Mark Sherman Law to fully understand the implications and consequences. Feel free to read our online reviews to see what our past clients have to say about us, and then give us a call to set up a consultation at (203) 358-4700.