Legalities

Legalities, a weekly column that appears in the Help section of the Southern Illinoisan, is a free service of the Self Help Legal Center. You can visit the Southern Illinoisan website at: http://www.southernillinoisan.com

Q: Is it illegal for me to record a telephone conversation with someone else without their permission? I tried to find the law that covered this area but couldn't find it.

A: Not only is it illegal, in Illinois it is a Class 4 felony.

The legality of taping oral conversations is difficult to find because it is actually found in the statute which governs eavesdropping – 720 ILCS 5/14. Most people don't think to look there because they don't think of themselves as eavesdropping when they are a party to a conversation.

A person violates the eavesdropping law when he/she knowingly and intentionally records all or any part of any conversation "without the consent of all of the parties" to such conversation or electronic communication.

There are exceptions, however, to this rule, including exceptions for law enforcement, for meetings required to be open under the Open Meetings Act, and for businesses which monitor customer service.

There is also an exception that allows you to record a conversation if you have reasonable suspicion that another party to the conversation is committing, is about to commit, or has committed a criminal offense against you or a member of your immediate household and (and this is a really big and) that evidence of the criminal offense may be obtained by the recording.

Given that the penalty for eavesdropping is a felony, you should probably err on the side of not recording a conversation unless you are absolutely sure that one of the exceptions applies to your situation. If you are unsure, you should seek the services of an attorney.