Bugging and Tape Recording Conversations in Arizona: Is it Legal?
Lawyers often receive inquiries about the legalities of recording phone or other conversations in Arizona. In particular, the issue frequently arises in family law cases where child custody is at issue. Related to the recording issue is the "bugging" issue.
There are a number of variables that affect the answer to the central question, whether it is legal to either record or even bug conversations. First, bugging and recording are two different issues under Arizona law, often related, but also potentially very different under the law.
Second, the laws regarding bugging and recording vary significantly by jurisdiction so what is legal in one state may be illegal in another. As well, the federal law may vary from state laws.
The following is a very brief analysis of the bugging and recording law in Arizona:
A. Bugging, otherwise known as wiretapping, typically means placing a device on a phone that allows one to eavesdrop on a conversation or other transmission. Bugging by a private party is considered illegal almost all of the time for two reasons primarily: First, it allows someone to listen to a private conversation between two or more unsuspecting parties. Second, bugs are usually placed without permission so you have a number of infractions inherent in such trespass-like activity. If you suspect someone has placed a bug on your phone or other device, you should call the police.
B. In the case of a telephone or in-person conversation, recording simply means making a copy of the conversation between two or more people. Recording is illegal in Arizona if NO party to the conversation knows that the conversation is being recorded. However, in Arizona, and this varies by state, if one party to the conversation knows that the conversation is being recorded, it is not illegal. Thus, if someone tape records a phone call or conversation involving him/herself and another person, even one who is unaware of being recorded, that's legal in Arizona. If the same person taps into a phone line and records a conversation between two people who are unaware they are being recorded, it is ILLEGAL. Arizona and federal law are similar in this respect; however, recording conversations is illegal in certain other states unless all parties know of the recording and consent. There may be some cross-jurisdictional issues involved when tape recording a conversation across state or national boundaries. Prior to tape recording, it is recommended that you consult an attorney in the appropriate jurisdiction.
In summary, bugging/wiretapping is always illegal while tape recording is legal in Arizona as long as one party to the conversation is aware the conversation is being recorded. However, don't make assumptions about the law in other states -consult an attorney to determine what is allowed.
Disclaimer: Wilcox & Wilcox, P.C. and its principles, agents and/or representatives, make no guarantees or representations as to the accuracy or currency of any information herein contained. Providing this brochure does not establish an attorney-client relationship. To create such relationship, both the attorney and potential client must sign a written fee agreement. This information is meant only as general information, may not apply to your case specifically and is not meant to be relied upon for purposes of taking legal action. You should contact an attorney in person for further and specific information. Our family law attorneys are licensed in Arizona only.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Attorney Trent R. Wilcox is the managing partner of Wilcox & Wilcox, P.C. Mr. Wilcox practices in the areas of family law, employment disputes and general civil litigation. Mr. Wilcox is admitted to practice in the Arizona state courts and federal district court and is a member of the Maricopa County, Arizona State and American Bar Associations.