Can I Tape Record My Spouse?

Alabama law permits a party to a conversation to tape record that conversation without notifying the other party. What it does NOT permit is tape recording a conversation without the permission of at least one participant. Understanding the law requires reading carefully the various statutes dealing with eavesdropping and surveillance.

Ala. Code § 13A-11-30 defines “eavesdrop” this way: “To overhear, record, amplify or transmit any part of the private communication of others without the consent of at least one of the persons engaged in the communication, except as otherwise provided by law.”

Ala. Code § 13A-11-31 says that a person commits the crime of criminal eavesdropping (a Class A misdemeanor) if he “intentionally uses any device to eavesdrop, whether or not he is present at the time.”

Note that “eavesdropping” is not a crime. Only “criminal eavesdropping” (the use of a device) is a crime.

Ala. Code § 13A-11-30 defines “surveillance” as “secret observation of the actitivies of another person for the purpose of spying upon and invading the privacy of the person observed. And Ala. Code § 13A-11-32 says that a person commits the crime of criminal surveillance if he intentionally engagtes in surveillance while trespassing in a private place (where a person reasonably expects to be safe from surveillance and which is not open to public access).

Just as with eavedropping, note that “surveillance” is not a crime. Only if the surveillance involves some form of trespass does it become a crime.

Federal law is similar to Alabama law, in that it permits tape recording with the consent of at least one party to the conversation.

What I’ve described here is the Alabama law on eavesdropping and surveillance. The laws of many states are more restrictive and might extend to a conversation taped in Alabama. For example, in Florida, it’s a felony to intercept a telephone conversation unless ALL parties have consented. So beware of recording interstate conversations without knowing the state law in all states involved.

Other so-called “all-party” consent states include California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Nevada (by court order), Pennsylvania, and Washington. Most of the remaining states have provisions similar to that of Alabama, requiring consent by at least one party.

If you want to get deeper into the issue of state laws on tape recording phone calls and other conversations, the Reporters’ Committee for Freedom of the Press has an excellent Guide that includes a description of each state’s requirements.

16 thoughts on “Can I Tape Record My Spouse?”

  1. Is it legal for my ex-husband to tape record conversations between me and my child, if I have not given consent to be recorded? My child has recently informed this was being done and feels we cannot openly share conversation now. We rely heavily on telephone communication because of a great distance between us right
    now. I also feel this is an invasion of privacy and our ability to have an adequate parent-child relationship. Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

  2. You’re welcome to visit the web site I linked to above and see. I’d be surprised if you get someone to diagnose your specifics and render a legal opinion on a free message board.

  3. I had already read the above website, but it gave no information
    regarding a minor child being involved. I’ll address this along with
    other issues in court soon. Thanks.

  4. I don’t know FL law, but I’m not aware of any state where it’s illegal to record a conversation with someone who knows about the recording and consents to it.

  5. I just learned that my husband tape recorded a conversation we had in my home regarding our son. Is his tape admissible in court if I was unaware of it? The child custody case we currently have open is in the state of Nevada.

    Please advise. Thanks

  6. i live in ct and i just learned that my husband tape recorded an argument without my being aware of this. Is that illegal?

  7. I live in pennsylvania, and I want to know if I can tape record my husband will he threatened me to take my daugther overseas, and when he tried to hit him self with objects and try to frame me for it. please I need reply.
    thanks

  8. Lee

    Can a tape be used in court (alabama)by a third party,when charges were filed against someone that said they would commit a crime. Even though when the crime was actually commited the person accused was 300 miles away and can prove it .Also if the conversation was 75 minutes and the tape is only 20..

    Dale

  9. I would like to know if tape recordings can be used in court during a custody trial…my ex records everything.

  10. Any evidence that was gathered legally and that is relevant can be admitted in a custody matter. As to whether it’s gathered legally, you can look up the recording guide described above and see what you think.

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