Since the beginning of March, many states across the United States have enacted closures for non-essential businesses and stay-at-home orders for residents. The number of people who are now working from home and students who are attending school through online classes has skyrocketed. Many of these people have been using online video conferencing services such as Zoom, Skype, or Microsoft Teams. The use of these programs has been beneficial for people, but the legalities surrounding these services has been brought into question. Specifically, when is it legal to record someone in Connecticut, and could a person face criminal charges for making an illegal recording?
Who Must Be Aware of the Recording?
There are two stances that are common across the country when it comes to the legality of recording conversations. Some states are “two-party” consent states, which means that all parties involved in the conversation being recorded must be aware of the fact that the recording is taking place and must consent to it. The majority of states, however, are “one-party” consent states, meaning it is legal to record a conversation as long as one party consents to the recording.
In Connecticut, the legality of a recording depends on the circumstances of the situation. When recording an in-person conversation in which the parties are physically present in the same location, only one person needs to be aware of and consent to the recording. If none of the parties are aware of the recording, the person making the recording could be charged with eavesdropping, which is a Class D felony. Connecticut Class D felonies can result in up to five years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines.
When recording a telephone conversation, all parties need to be aware that the recording is happening. If all parties are not aware of and consent to a recording, the person making the recording could be charged with eavesdropping. Notably, the charge of eavesdropping does not apply to “wiretapping” by police officers or other law enforcement officials that is done as part of the lawful performance of their duties.
What About Video Recording?
Connecticut’s eavesdropping law does not specifically mention video recording. However, Connecticut law also defines the offense of voyeurism, which occurs when a person knowingly films, videotapes, or records the image of a person without that person’s consent in circumstances where the person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. This offense is a Class D felony.
Many police officers are required to wear and use “body cams” that may record conversations or interactions with members of the public. However, Connecticut law specifies certain situations where an officer is not allowed to intentionally record someone, including people undergoing medical or psychological evaluations or treatment, anyone other than the suspect of a crime when wearing a body cam in a hospital or medical facility, or any recordings in a mental health facility, except when an officer is responding to a call in which a suspect is thought to be located at a facility. In addition, body cam recordings made at the scene of incidents involving domestic violence or abuse or recordings of victims of homicide, suicide, or accidents cannot be disclosed to the public if this would result in an invasion of personal privacy.
It is also important to note that under Connecticut law, it is legal to make a video recording of a police officer who is performing their duties, and officers are not allowed to interfere with those who make these types of recordings. A law enforcement agency may be held liable for interference with someone taking a photo or video of a police officer, unless the officer had reasonable grounds to believe that the person was violating a state law or local ordinance or the officer was acting to protect public safety, preserve the integrity of a crime scene, or protect another person’s privacy.
To avoid potential charges for making a recording without authorization, all parties should be informed and aware that the video recording is taking place. That consent is built into most video conferencing platforms. For example, Skype users see a banner across the top of their screen that informs them if the call is being recorded. Similarly, Zoom requires all participants to click a consent button before a recording can begin. Even with these features, the safe thing to do before recording any video footage is to verbally inform all participants that a recording will be happening and gain their consent.
Contact a Connecticut Criminal Defense Attorney
If you record someone without their consent, you could be facing serious criminal charges. It is illegal to record a telephone or video conversation without receiving permission from all parties involved, and failure to obtain consent could result in felony charges. If you are facing accusations of eavesdropping, voyeurism, or other charges related to illegal recording, you should speak with a Hartford, CT criminal defense lawyer right away. Contact our team at the Woolf Law Firm, LLC today by calling 860-290-8690 for a free consultation.