Can You Use Your Smartphone to Record a Conversation?

Thanks to smartphones and voice recording apps, it is possible to record conversations, meetings, and appointments with ease. However, if you choose to voice record a conversation, you should use caution as Michigan law prohibits recording in certain situations.

Michigan law bans using a device to eavesdrop on a private conversation unless all parties to the conversation consent to the recording. Eavesdropping, as defined by the law, means to overhear, record, amplify, or transmit the conversations. A violation is a felony punishable by imprisonment for up to two years and a fine of up to $2,000 or both.

An exception to the eavesdropping statute

Those who have casually recorded conversations should take note that Michigan’s courts have routinely acknowledged an exception to Michigan’s eavesdropping law. In the case of Sullivan v. Gray, the court ruled that the eavesdropping statute does not apply to conversations in which you are a participant. In other words, if you participate in a conversation you are free to record without consent from the other parties. The Michigan State Court of Appeals has affirmed this analysis on numerous occasions.

Home security monitoring

Michigan HB 4724, if signed into law, would amend the eavesdropping law to exempt recordings made by a home security monitoring device for purposes of security monitoring a residence or other structures on residential property.

Better to ask for consent

Even though there are instances that would allow for recording without permission under Michigan law, it is better to err on the side of caution and simply ask for permission before recording with your smartphone or any device. That’s because federal law and laws governing other states, which may be different than Michigan’s statute, may come into play as well.

Help is available

The attorneys at O’Reilly Rancilio are available to answer your questions regarding Michigan’s eavesdropping law. For more information, please call 586-726-1000 or visit our website.

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