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Don’t Record that Conversation Without Permission! Complying with Pennsylvania’s Wiretap Laws.

by | Apr 28, 2021 | Criminal Law

“For quality assurance, this call may be recorded.”  How many times have you heard that automated disclaimer when calling a creditor, or your bank or your insurance company, etc.?  Well, there’s a good reason for that, and it’s because in some states – and Pennsylvania is one of them – if you make an audio recording of someone speaking without that person’s permission, or at the very least informing them in advance – you may be committing a criminal offense – one that could get you prosecuted, and one that could leave you with a serious criminal record that will follow you.

Every state has its own specific laws that may or may not deal with whether permission is required in order to make an audio recording of a conversation. Pennsylvania’s wiretapping law, found at 18 Pa. C.S.A. Section 5701 et seq., is what’s known as a “two-party consent” law. That means that unless all participants in a conversation consent to their words and voices being recorded, it is a criminal offense to record a conversation or a telephone call.  This is not a minor offense, either. In Pennsylvania, it is a third-degree felony if a person “intentionally intercepts, endeavors to intercept, or procures any other person to intercept or endeavor to intercept any wire, electronic or oral communication.”  See, 18 Pa. C.S.A. Section 5703(1).  The maximum sentence for a third-degree sentence is, potentially, up to 20 years imprisonment and a $25,000 fine.

It is also the case that law enforcement authorities must either comply with Pennsylvania’s wiretap laws to record a conversation, or obtain a warrant from a judge to allow them to record the conversation without waring a defendant that their conversation is being recorded – or else the prosecution risks not being permitted to admit the recorded conversation into evidence at a criminal defendant’s trial.

If you are tempted to record a someone’s conversation, whether in-person or over the phone, in Pennsylvania, think twice before doing it! If you don’t inform that that person that their conversation is being recorded, and you’re caught doing it, you could find yourself in very serious legal hot water.  And if you are charged with a criminal offense and evidence of a recorded conversation may be used against you, your attorney should pay very close attention to whether the recorded evidence was, or was not, obtained legally.

The attorneys at Rick Law have decades of experience representing clients charged with all variety of offenses, including electronic offenses. If you or a loved one are charged or being investigated for a possible criminal offense, give our office a call to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.

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