States have different laws dealing with whether you can record a person’s oral communications and disclose it to the police or use it as evidence in court. Some states allow such a recording as long as just one party to the discussion agrees, even if the consenting party is also the party recording the conversation. In Florida, it is illegal to record an oral communication unless the people communicating know of the recording and consent. Therefore, in Florida, you cannot secretly record a private conversation with another person and then disclose it or use it in court.
There are exceptions to this rule. As discussed, consent is one of them. It is not uncommon to have a phone conversation with a business and be told that they are recording the conversation. In that case, the recording is legal, and the conversation could be used later in court. The rule about recording private communications would seem to be more important these days as just about every cell phone now can also be used as a recording device. People need to be aware that the things they say could be recorded and later used against them. Of course, this Florida law is supposed to offer some protection by requiring someone who wants to record a conversation to notify the other person and get the proper consent.
However, not all oral communications are subject to this legal protection. Under Florida law, an “oral communication” is considered a communication that is made with the expectation that it would remain private and not be recorded or heard publicly. In other words, if you are having a conversation on a crowded bus, it can be recorded without your knowledge and consent because it is obviously not a private conversation. On the other hand, if you are having a conversation with another person in your home or office, without other people around, it would likely be considered private and could not be recorded without your consent.
In a recent grand theft case near Jacksonville, Florida, the defendant was accused of employee theft for stealing money from the cash register. The supervisor confronted the employee in the store, and the employee admitted to stealing from the company. No one else was a party to this conversation, but it was recorded by a camera and recording device that was kept in the area by the employer. The police obtained a copy of the recording which showed the confession by the defendant and sought to use it against the defendant at his grand theft trial.
The criminal defense lawyer filed a motion to suppress the video of the statement arguing that it was an illegal recording because the defendant did not consent to it. The court disagreed and allowed the video. Since the conversation happened at work and in a room where the defendant knew cameras were recording, the defendant did not have an expectation that the conversation was private. It was difficult for the criminal defense attorney to argue that the defendant thought he was having a private discussion when he had it in a room he knew had cameras. Therefore, the law preventing recording of oral communications did not help the defendant in this case.