We've all been tempted to record a conversation. Sometimes people show a side of themselves to us that they just don't show to anyone else. Whether it be a boss, a former spouse, or someone who knows they owe you money but denies it to others.

Then there are all those surveillance cameras everywhere, not to mention everyone has a smartphone these days capable of recording a conversation and video of that conversation. Privacy for anything is getting harder to find these days.  There are video surveillance cameras in businesses and homes, webcams on computers, and doorbell cameras everywhere.

With privacy harder and harder to find, it is almost unreasonable to expect that any conversation is private these days.

With all that in mind, can you legally record a phone conversation with another person in Texas without their consent?  The short answer is yes. Like any question that deals with the law, however, there are caveats to that answer.

lawsuit document

Telephone Calls

Texas is one of 38 "One-Party Consent" states.  Under Texas law, it is a crime to intercept or record any wire, oral or electronic communication without the consent of at least one party to the conversation.  The good news is that if you are one party in the conversation, then you can legally record it.

A parent may also give consent to the recording of a child's conversation if the parent has a good faith reasonable belief that the recording will benefit the welfare of the child.

There are some situations where it can get complicated. For example, if you are recording a conversation with multiple parties from different states, some of those states may require that ALL parties to the conversation give consent.

The complete Texas Law regarding this can be found here: Texas Penal Code

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash
Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

In-Person Conversation

The One-Party law generally applies to in-person conversations in Texas. It is typically permitted in Texas to record conversations and videos in public and work settings. There are some caveats in federal and state law that prohibit doing so in some cases and recording in the workplace can violate employer guidelines and contracts.

Texas law (Penal Code§16.02) does not permit you to record in-person communications when the parties in that conversation have a "reasonable expectation of privacy". If you wish to record a conversation that you are not a part of, all parties must give consent before the recorder is turned on.

There are certain places where an expectation of privacy is supreme, like bathrooms or changing rooms. This means surveillance cameras cannot legally record sound in Texas on private property

In public places, like at a football game or in the mall, you can record in-person communications. There is no expectation of privacy in public places, although restrooms and changing rooms do not count.

Male using phone while sitting on a toilet bowl

While it might be legal to record a public conversation, the act of disclosing the recording to other third parties could be, in and of itself punishable criminally or civilly under other legal conditions, such as slander.

When it comes to legalities, there really are no easy answers.  Here in Texas, if you are a party to a conversation, then legally you can record it. Disclosing it can be a whole different matter. It is always a good idea to remember the Golden Rule: Do unto others.


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