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Recording Conversations in Georgia

Digital KeyholeIs it a crime to record conversations in Georgia?  It depends on how and where you do it.

Since it seems like everyone has a smartphone nowadays, people frequently ask whether it is legal in Georgia to record their conversations or whether it is the crime of Eavesdropping to do so.

For audio recordings, the answer is easy. Georgia, like most states, is a "one party" state for audio recording conversations.  That means that any party to a conversation can audio record the conversation without the knowledge of any other party to the conversation.  Just make sure all parties are in Georgia, because if even one of them is in an  "all-party" state, you would likely be breaking the law of that state to record the conversation.

Just owning the telephone doesn't make someone a "party" to the conversation, so it is illegal to "tap" the telephone of your own house to record the conversations that other people in the house have with other people.  But few homes are hard-wired for telephones anymore, so nowadays the recording questions deal with having your cell phone in your pocket recording a face-to-face conversation, or using some sort of application to record a conversation you are having on the telephone.  Subject to the limitations I've mentioned above, these recordings are legal and almost always found to be admissible.

For video recordings, it's a bit trickier. The same rule does not apply to video recordings in private places (such as homes).  In a case called State v. Madison (2011), the Georgia Court of Appeals held that for video recordings Georgia is an "all-party" state, meaning that all parties video recorded must consent to the recording.  So if you want to video record what is going on in a private place, all parties must consent.  (Frankly, I think this is a problematic ruling, as it basically makes many common recordings illegal.  Consider, for example, recording your child's Christmas play at church.  The church is a private place, so unless you have the consent of every person in the room and on stage, you're breaking the law.)

So you should be fine to audio-record your conversations with other people in Georgia, but it is criminal eavesdropping to video-record them in a private place without their permission.

Rutter v. Rutter, (2012), shows just how thin the line can be regarding recording in your own home.  In that case, one spouse video recording another was deemed acceptable under the "security purposes" exception to the Eavesdropping law:   

OCGA 16-11-62(C) To use for security purposes, crime prevention, or crime detection any device to observe, photograph, or record the activities of persons who are within the curtilage of the residence of the person using such device. A photograph, videotape, or record made in accordance with this subparagraph, or a copy thereof, may be disclosed by such resident to the district attorney or a law enforcement officer and shall be admissible in a judicial proceeding, without the consent of any person observed, photographed, or recorded.

http://law.justia.com/codes/georgia/2010/title-16/chapter-11/article-3/part-1/16-11-62

I have also written on the right to record the police, even in private, without their knowledge. You can read more here:

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2043907

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/06/analysis-right-to-record-cops-extends-to-private-settings/

 

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