Many people believe that they have the right to record their conversations when talking with someone in person or over the phone. While this is correct in many states, in Florida it may be a felony.
With modern technology it is easy and tempting to record a conversation either in person, over the phone, or over the internet. Just because modern technology makes the recording easy, it does not make the recording legal in the state of Florida. The recording of a telephone call or face-to-face conversation without the knowledge of all parties to the conversation, can be a felony punishable by up to five years in prison or a misdemeanor. The purpose or intended use of the recording determines whether the crime is a felony or a misdemeanor. The terminology used in the Statute is complicated and technical, and may not be easy to understand, but violating the law is a crime. Even a face-to-face conversation cannot be recorded without all parties knowing of the recording.
We are all familiar with commercial phone calls which begin with a statement that the call may be recorded for quality control or customer service reasons. This announcement gives notice to the parties that a recording may be made and complies with Florida law. If you wish to record a conversation you simply must inform the parties that you are doing so.
The Florida law not only makes the undisclosed recording of any call or face-to-face meeting illegal, it also makes it a crime to use, or even attempt to use, an illegally recorded conversation for any purpose. A person who causes another person, by whatever means, to illegally record a conversation also violates the law. In addition, it is also a crime to disclose the contents of a conversation obtained through an illegal recording.
The Florida law prohibits any illegally recorded conversations being used in a court proceeding or before any agency or officer of the State. Law enforcement may, however, authorize a person to record a conversation without notifying the parties of the recording.
A person who is negotiating a business contract may decide to record the conversation due to concerns of a future disagreement as to the contract terms. If the recording is made in violation of the Florida law, the person making the recording committed a crime even if the person is a party to the contract. In addition, the recording can not be used in any legal hearing or other official proceeding, such as a law suit over the contract terms.
Before recording a conversation, you should consider your actions carefully. If you believe it is important that the conversation be recorded, you should announce at the beginning of the conversation while the recording device is on, that you are recording the conversation. The other person may say that they do not want to speak with you or that you need to turn off the recording. In that event, you can announce that you will not turn off the recording and if there’s going to be any conversation, it will be recorded.