The Legality of Voice Recording Without Consent

Is voice recording legal in the state of Washington? The answer to this depends on the circumstances under which the recording was made.

Washington is a two-party consent law for voice recording. This means it is illegal for anyone to either record or intercept a private phone call, in-person conversation or electric communication unless every party to the conversation consents to the recording. Before you start recording a conversation, you must get verbal or written consent from all parties involved.

What makes a conversation or communication private in the eyes of the law? It primarily depends on individual case factors, such as how reasonable it was that the parties could expect the conversation would be private, where they had the conversation, the intention of the parties in the conversation and whether there were any third parties present.

Obtaining consent

Under Washington law, you can satisfy the requirement for consent by announcing to all parties engaged in the communication in “any reasonably effective manner” that you will be recording or transmitting the communication. This announcement must also be recorded to prove you informed the parties of your intention. This gives those other parties the opportunity to either decline to continue the conversation or to not provide consent for the recording.

For employees of newspapers, magazines, television stations, radio stations and other similar services, verbal establishment of consent is not mandatory so long as they are clearly using a recording or transmitting device in a manner that is “readily apparent or obvious” to anyone who may be engaged in conversation with them.

Any violations of this law could lead to a person being considered liable for civil lawsuits for damages by the aggrieved party.

Court hearings and public meetings

One common question people have is whether these same voice recording rules apply for court hearings and public meetings.

Courts in Washington typically allow the use of recording devices in the courtroom, but the judge presiding must give express permission before the person begins recording. The judge can also impose limitations on the recording to ensure it does not become too distracting to participants in the case or that it does not impair the process. There are applications people can fill out in advance for photographing, recording or broadcasting from the courtroom.

Washington state law allows for the audio and video recording of public meetings, such as open meetings of governmental bodies, unless they disrupt the meeting from proceeding in an orderly fashion.

In summary, the general rule tends to be that you can record so long as you have permission or implied consent from the people being recorded. For more information about what state law says about your ability to record or transmit conversations or meetings and what you need to do to satisfy all requirements under the law, contact the experts at Efficiency, Inc. with any questions you have for our team. We look forward to working with you and helping you find the right voice recording equipment for your needs!

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