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Recording Phone Calls in Texas: Laws and Penalties

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

Recording Phone Calls in Texas: Laws and Penalties

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Can I Get In Trouble For Recording Phone Calls In Texas?

There are many reasons that a person might want to record a phone call in Texas. For example, a person may wish to make a record of a business call to refer to at a later time. They may want to make a note of their spouse’s behavior over the phone during a divorce proceeding. They may even want to record evidence of abuse, harassment, or other criminal behavior that takes place over the phone.

If you record a phone call in Texas, you may be wondering if you are breaking the law or if you will be able to use that recording as evidence in court. Check out the rest of this article to find out the legal status of recorded phone conversations.

Is It Illegal To Record Phone Calls?

In most cases, it is not against the law to record a phone call in the state of Texas as long as one party in the phone call consents to the recording. This is because Texas is known as a “one-party consent” state. As long as one person involved in the phone call agrees to allow the call to be recorded, then no crime has been committed.

For the purposes of the law, the person who gives consent to the recording may be either the person doing the recording or any other participant in the phone call. This means that the person doing the recording can also be the person who gives consent. In effect, you can legally record a phone conversation with another person whether or not the other person on the call knows that recording is taking place. This is because you are the person giving consent to recording.

You may also be allowed to record a phone conversation between two other people as long as one of the call participants gives consent to the recording before the call takes place.

In many cases, you are legally allowed to record a phone conversation with another person. However, not all states share the one-party consent law. So, if you are recording a conversation with a person in another state, you should get consent from all parties in the call to avoid violating the laws of a different state.

Sometimes, recording certain conversations can get you into legal trouble.

When Recording Calls Is Illegal

In nearly all cases, it is against the law to record a phone conversation without the consent of the participants in the call. This crime is known as wiretapping and it is illegal at both the state and the federal level. Violating this law can lead to severe criminal penalties.

For example, Robert suspects that his wife is cheating on him. He installs a device on his home phone that records phone calls. He records conversations between his wife and her alleged lover and he then tries to use those calls to initiate divorce proceedings. Robert may be in violation of the wiretapping law because he did not obtain the consent of anyone who participated in the call.

It is also against the law in some cases to divulge the contents of a recorded phone conversation if there was an expectation of privacy. For example, if Stacy records a phone call with her boss where he reveals embarrassing private information and then Stacy reveals that recording to humiliate her boss, she may face civil lawsuits and possible criminal charges of harassment or slander.

Legal Penalties

A person who records phone conversations without the consent of the call participants, or a person who sells or manufactures devices intended for non-consensual recordings, may face penalties under the law.

Non-consensual recordings of phone conversations are a violation of Chapter 16.02 of the Texas Penal Code. This offense is a second degree felony. It is punishable by:

  • Up to 20 years in state prison
  • A fine of up to $10,000

Depending on the circumstances of a particular case, a judge may decide to impose additional restrictions on a defendant, including supervised probation and community service.

Legal Defenses

The Texas Penal Code includes some provisions that can be used as a defense to prosecution under a wiretapping offense. For example, a law enforcement officer who is attempting to stop a life-threatening situation may be allowed to avoid prosecution if they use a private phone conversation to help them stop the dangerous situation.

Also, a defense attorney may try to argue that the person accused of illegally recording a conversation was actually a party to that conversation. For example, a lawyer could argue that the person who made the recording was invited by the other participants to join in the conversation. If this can be proved by the defense, charges might be dropped because a party to a conversation may be allowed to consent to a recording of all involved parties, even if the other parties are unaware of the recording.

Do you know someone being charged with a crime based on a telephone call? It’s always important to speak with an attorney to ensure that your rights aren’t being violated. Houston criminal defense attorney Greg Tsioros can help you. Contact his office today at 832-752-5972.

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