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Taping Conversations

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Junior Member

Can anyone tell me if it is "illegal" to tape private and/or business conversations?

Can a taped conversation be used in a court of law?

Which states condone or approve this and which states do not?
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Senior Member
Yes, someone can. As soon as you come back with SPECIFIC details of a SPECIFIC situation instead of a homework assignment.


Junior Member
O.K. I'll get as many specifics as I can.

Sorry about the vague question.

It's about two hail brokers discussing possible business relationship/employment (Paintless Dent Removal) in another state. I will get more specifics, by the end of the day.

Thanks for your reply!!
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Senior Member
Since state laws are different, you also need to tell us WHAT state the conversation took place in.


Junior Member
The conversation was taped from an Iowa land line with a call connected to a CELL PHONE registerred to a person that lives in Illinois.

Now, I did find in another thread on this forum (https://forum.freeadvice.com/showthread.php?t=20546 ) but it seemed unclear to me and it did not mention anything about cell phones.

There, that's all the "pertinent details I have. Is that enough, or do you need more?

Thanks guys/Gals!!

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Was the cell phone used in IL or IOWA? It really doesn't make a difference as only the state where the conversation was taped matters. If the cell phone was used in IOWA the fact that it is registered to an address in IL makes no difference. The cell doesn't work by magic, all those nice tall towers it gets its signal from were in IOWA therefore the call was placed in IOWA.


Senior Member
From where the call was placed has absolutely no bearing on the legality of the taping.

The issue is ONLY where was the recording made (in what state) and who made the recording. Iowa, being a one-party state, allows any participant to the conversation to record such transmission.

For a further reading on the Federal law governing wiretapping go here:




Senior Member
BelizeBreeze said:
From where the call was placed has absolutely no bearing on the legality of the taping.

The issue is ONLY where was the recording made (in what state) and who made the recording. Iowa, being a one-party state, allows any participant to the conversation to record such transmission.[/url]
Sorry, but that is NOT correct!!
"Calls that cross state lines become complicated legal issues especially when one state is a one party consent state and the other state is an all party consent state. What has happened is that you didn't violate the law in the one party consent state and violated the law in the all party consent state. Moreover, since the call went across a state line, the federal laws would certainly apply. The most famous case involving this type of issue is the Linda Trip case. You will recall that Linda Trip recorded the telephone conversations of Monica Lewinski concerning her relationship with President Clinton. Trip was in Maryland and Lewinski was in DC. Note that Maryland is an all party consent state while DC is a one party consent state. The law is actually quite fuzzy on these issues. The recorder is advised to assume that the stricter law would apply."

The issue of cell phone interception (and even worse, recording) is RADIO related and not normal 'telephone' communications. As such, it does NOT fall under the normal 'can we record telephone conversation' laws. The FCC regulates reception and recording of RADIO conversations, and prohibits doing so on cellular phone conversations.
More on this can be found at:


Senior Member
The conversation was taped from an Iowa land line
And I will disagree with you.

The language of the Communications Act which you referenced is vague on several issues, not the least of which is the discussion of the mixture of 'radio' and land line transmission.

Section 705 does prohibit a person from using an intercepted radio communication for his or her own benefit. One court held that under this provision a taxicab company may sue its competitor for wrongfully intercepting and using for its benefit radio communications between the company's dispatchers and drivers. A more recent Supreme Court decision, however, raises First Amendment issues about the ability of the government to regulate the disclosure of legally-obtained radio communications, and this area of the law remains unsettled.

I also note that the Communications Act prohibits "Interception" of radio transmissions but is also silent on recording of such.

And in light of the language of the Communications Act, and since this is not a clear case of 'interception', we have to look to state law.

Iowa Code § 727.8: It is a misdemeanor in Iowa under general criminal laws to tap into a communication of any kind, including telephone conversations, unless the person listening or recording is a sender or recipient of the communication, or is openly present and participating in the conversation. Thus, one party to a communication generally may record it without the consent of the other parties.

Iowa also has more specific legislation regarding the interception of communications that expressly allows the interception of wire, oral or electronic communications through use of a mechanical device by a party to the communication, or with the consent of at least one party, in the absence of any criminal or tortious intent. Iowa Code § 808B.2.

Illegal interception and disclosure of intercepted information under this legislation are misdemeanors, and anyone whose communications have been intercepted is expressly provided with injunctive relief and damages at a rate of $100 a day or $1,000, whichever is higher. Iowa Code § 808B.8.

And under U.S. Code:
In the absence of more restrictive state law, it is permissible to intercept and record a telephone conversation if one or both of the parties to the call consents. Consent means authorization by only one participant in the call; single-party consent is provided for by specific statutory exemption under federal law. 18 U.S.C. Sec. 2511(2)(d).

Now, since Illinois is (by statute) a two-party state and Iowa is a one-party state, it would seem that under U.S.C> Sec. 2511(2)(d) the more restrictive state law would prevail. However, the courts (at least in Illinois) have already weighed in on this one.

"Illinois is, by statute, a two-party state. However, case law from both the IL Supreme Court and various Illinois appellate courts have declared Illinois a one-party state in the case of private citizens (businesses and plain folks - NOT law enforcement). The reigning consensus is that one-party consensual recording is merely "enhanced note-taking" and since some folks have total recall without recording, how can the other party have any expectation of privacy to a conversation held with another person.

Illinois requires prior consent of all participants to monitor or record a phone conversation. Ill. Rev. Stat. Ch. 38, Sec. 14-2. There is no specific business telephone exception, but in general courts have found extension telephones do not constitute eavesdropping devices. Criminal penalties for unlawful eavesdropping include up to three years' imprisonment or $10,000 in fines and the civil remedy provides for recovery of actual and punitive damages.

In the state of Illinois it is illegal to monitor cordless phones."

Now to the crux of the matter. The call, regardless of where it originated and if it was land to cell, cell to land or radio to land or visa versa, was tape recorded by a party to the conversation in a one-party state.

Therefore, that state's laws prevail. Illinois has no jurisdiction over recordings made in other states. If someone outside of Illinois records a telephone conversation with someone in Illinois, that person cannot be prosecuted under the Illinois law.

Because Illinois cannot have jurisdiction over a party in Iowa, either Iowa statutes or federal law apply.


Senior Member
Interesting 'cut-n-paste' from sites like: http://www.rcfp.org/taping/states/iowa.html

I have to assume that you are confused about the FACT that the cellular part of the conversation is NOT telephonic, but is in fact radio...... and as such, the telephone laws that you cut-n-paste do NOT apply to that portion of the conversation.
From the original post:
"The conversation was taped from an Iowa land line with a call connected to a CELL PHONE registerred to a person that lives in Illinois."

Further, the fact that this is an INTERSTATE communication would also elevate it to either the stricter of the individual states OR the federal laws. Since the individual states do not regulate radio interception (as that is a federal function), the FCC rules would govern.

Clearly, the following would apply:
(a) Except as authorized by chapter 119, title 18, United States Code, no person receiving, assisting in receiving, transmitting, or assisting in transmitting, any interstate or foreign communication by wire or radio shall divulge or publish the existence, contents, substance, purport, effect, or meaning thereof, except through authorized channels of transmission or reception, (1) to any person other than the addressee, his agent, or attorney, (2) to a person employed or authorized to forward such communication to its destination, (3) to proper accounting or distributing officers of the various communicating centers over which the communication may be passed, (4) to the master of a ship under whom he is serving, (5) in response to a subpena issued by a court of competent jurisdiction, or (6) on demand of other lawful authority."

A copy of the full "Communications Act" can be found at:
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Senior Member
And that was almost right (the cut-n-paste reference)
But it's clear to me at least, that we are not talking about Publication for which your reference makes a good case, but individual use of recording from a one-party state.

Using your analogy, ALL telephone recording statutes would be void simply on the fact that the call MAY be received from a cell, ship's radio, satellite or other non land-based system. And that is simply not the legislative intent.

While I do agree that the stricter of the two state statutes would prevail, Illinois has a long court history of finding in private (business AND personal) communications, the one-party standard applies. Which levels the requirement between the states.

I am going to re read the Act this weekend but cases such as El Mundo and Washington Post clearly (to me at least) differentiate between "Publication" and recording and especially in the El Mundo case, because the recording was held in Illinois, a strict reading of the leglislative intent of the statute (two-party) required the defendent (El Mundo) to obtain permission before both recording AND publishing the conversation.

The two issues were separate in the case.


Senior Member

From http://ftp.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/recordcalls.html

Since September 11, 2001, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has received an increasing number of inquiries about recording wireline telephone conversations and wiretapping. Currently, the FCC does not have any rules that prohibit consumers from recording wireline telephone conversations. The FCC does have some rules regarding the manner in which telephone companies may record wireline telephone conversations.

FCC's Rules Regarding Telephone Companies Recording Interstate or International Wireline Telephone Conversations

The FCC protects the privacy of telephone conversations by requiring notification before a recording device is used to record interstate (between different states) or international wireline calls. Interstate or international wireline conversations may not be recorded unless the use of the recording device is:

preceded by verbal or written consent of all parties to the telephone conversation; or

preceded by verbal notification which is recorded at the beginning, and as part of the call, by the recording party; or

accompanied by an automatic tone warning device, sometimes called a "beep tone," which automatically produces a distinct signal that is repeated at regular intervals during the course of the telephone conversation when the recording device is in use.

Also, a recording device can only be used if it can be physically connected to and disconnected from the telephone line or if it can be switched on and off.

Whether or not this call, originated by cell phone but received by land line, falls under FCC or State jurisdiction is a matter of fact for the courts to decide.


Senior Member
One final post (by me) on this issue....
You said, "But it's clear to me at least, that we are not talking about Publication for which your reference makes a good case, but individual use of recording from a one-party state."
*** Clearly that is NOT the case. The writer asked "Can a taped conversation be used in a court of law?" and later that the conversation included a cell phone. THAT is PUBLICATION!!! (Publication is not limited to being in the New York Times!)

"Using your analogy, ALL telephone recording statutes would be void simply on the fact that the call MAY be received from a cell, ship's radio, satellite or other non land-based system."
*** Come on, Krispy, you know that is NOT what I said. And the law is clear (at least to me), if ANY part of a telephone conversation is by RADIO (including cellular), the Act would apply.


Senior Member
Then we are arguing on different subjects. I ONLY addressed the first question because the second and third ard subjective and clearly NOT something that can be answered outside of the courtroom.

In that regard, yes, this would be in the strictest sense of the word "PUBLICATION" and a matter of law for the courts.

And out of respect, this will be MY last post on the subject :D


Junior Member
First, I would like to thank all of you for your unbelievable amount of time on this question!!!

It sounds like you guys really know what you are talking about, even though I get lost a bit.

I may (?) assume that this type of case would need to be decided by the courts and the outcome cannot be predicted with much accuracy as of now.

If there is any follow on to this post I would embelish in the reading and I look forward to any new "discoveries"!!!

I really didn't want to create a "homework assignment". I thought that it was an easier answer than this! Go Figure!

Well, at least Attorneys have "written law" to settle things. We (Paintless Dent Removal Technicians) just seem to argue 'til someone gives up :). .... Not all the time, though! :) We have a very helpful forum at www.doording.com . We Try!!!

Can't wait to see any follow-ons to this thread!!! Thanks Guys!
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