Recording Interactions and Consent Laws in Texas

Cameras and recording devices are becoming a more and more integral part of society with each passing year. Devices at virtually every street corner, surveillance systems in businesses and homes, and even the cameras attached to computers, phones, and mobile devices are just accepted as a part of life in many places around the world. The need for caution and discretion continues to grow as we try to safely navigate the increasingly digital landscape of the modern world.

News reports of audio or video recordings exposing secret deals or private discussions have become increasingly common. Surveillance footage of criminal behavior and even body cam recordings of police actions that don’t follow the rules are rapidly becoming a popular source of discussion and scrutiny. More and more people have described feelings of being uncomfortable with the knowledge that they may be recorded at any time, or that they have needed to record a conversation or interaction for their own protection.

As recordings and forms of surveillance continue to grow in popularity, questions of privacy, especially in Texas, have become a new focal point of conversation and argument on streets and in court cases. People are have started to ask regularly whether or not it should be illegal to record a phone conversation, or if they can record an in-person interaction. At the most basic level, the answer is yes, it is possible to record interactions without the other person’s consent in Texas, but there are some important things to keep in mind.

At Davis, Ermis & Roberts, our team of experienced attorneys has spent years helping individuals in the Dallas-Fort Worth, TX area with a variety of criminal and court cases. To help members of the community have a clearer understanding of how to handle recordings, whether you’re being recorded or want to record, we’ve taken the time to put together a few important things to consider about the subject.

Texas is a One-Party Consent State for Audio Recordings

According to the laws of Texas, it is acceptable to record a wired or electronic-based conversation with the consent of at least one party. Because you count as one party if you are participating in the conversation, then it is safe to assume that you\’ve given your consenting to recording yourself and whoever else is on the line. This means that you do not have to alert other people who may be on the line that you are actively recording in most situations, although there are specific exceptions.

Some states require the consent of all parties involved, and if a person involved in the conversation is currently in one of those states, then it is important to maintain an awareness of the laws governing that state before engaging in an effort to record the conversation without consent. If the person recording gains clearly expressed permission to record ahead of time though, then there will be no cause for concern later.

Can I Record a Conversation in a Public Place?

The short answer to this question is yes because it is a public place, you can make recordings because you are considered one party involved in any conversations that you happen to overhear while moving about in a public space. This means that it is always important to be careful what you’re comfortable saying in a public space.

A good example of this is as follows:

If two people, Joe and Jane are eating in a public place (such as a restaurant), and a third person named Joyce sits near them, then Joyce has the right to record any conversation she can overhear without the consent of either Joe or Jane. Because all three people are in a public space, Joyce is well within her rights to make a recording as she is considered an involved party by simply being within earshot of the other two.

Work with an Experienced Attorney First

Before deciding to take matters into your own hands and diving into the world of spy cameras, recording devices, and secret surveillance to try and gather evidence for a case you are a part of, your best option is to work with a professional attorney. At Davis, Ermis & Roberts, our team has spent years working with individuals throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth, TX area on a variety of cases, and we are always prepared to guide our clients on their best course of action when dealing with legal concerns.

By having a clear understanding of your rights and the limits of the law, you can be sure that any actions you take are in your best interests, and that they will effectively serve to support your case in the long run instead of turning the course of proceedings against you unexpectedly. If you’re dealing with a concern related to recordings, don’t hesitate to reach out today to have a conversation about how best to move forward with your unique situation.