I often get asked whether it is legal to record phone calls and occasionally a client will come in with a great volume of recordings, expecting great results. There are some apps for smartphones that can automatically record calls. It’s usually a lousy idea.
- It’s illegal in the United States to record calls to which you are not a party (unless you are the NSA or law enforcement with a court order). That means if you are a parent and your child is having a telephone conversation with your co-parent and you are not in the room, it is a federal crime to record the call.
- It is legal in Missouri to record a call to which you are a party, provided the person on the other end of the call is also in a state where it is legal to record a call to which you are a party. If the person on the other end of the call is in a state in which it is illegal for either party to record a call, then it is potentially illegal to record the call without the other party’s consent.
- It is always legal to record a call with the consent of all parties to the call.
- It is unethical for attorneys to advise clients to secretly record calls, particularly to illegally record calls or to record calls to represented parties.
- It is unethical for attorneys to secretly record calls as that is a deceptive practice.
- Because it is deceptive for attorneys to secretly record calls, it is conceivable that a party who secretly records calls could have their credibility impeached at trial for engaging in the deceptive practice of secretly recording calls.