We live in an age when cameras and recorders are everywhere. If you’re carrying a smartphone, you have one in your pocket right now. Missouri lawmakers have tried to balance that readily available technology with the right to privacy by restricting the legal use of recording devices.
Here’s what you need to know about when and where you can legally record someone.
This article contains general information only and is not intended as legal advice. Consult with an attorney directly if you have questions about whether your actions may violate the law or whether your privacy rights were violated.
Is it illegal to record a conversation in Missouri?
You have to get consent before you can legally record a conversation. But in Missouri, you don’t need to get permission from everyone.
Missouri is a one-party consent state
Missouri is a one-party consent state, meaning you only need the permission of one person involved in the conversation to record it. If you’re participating in the conversation, you can count yourself as the consenting party.
Some states, like Illinois, are two-party consent states. In those states, every speaker has to consent.
What if the parties to the conversation are in different states? If the conversation is taking place across state lines, follow the law of the state where the recording device is located.
What if I’m not actually part of the conversation? If you’re listening to the conversation but you’re not participating in it – like a moderator, for example – you don’t count as one of the parties who can give consent. You must get permission from at least one of the speakers before you hit record.
You can do this by having the speakers sign a written consent form; by asking them to record their verbal consent; or by telling them on the record before the conversation begins that they are being recorded.
If you’re not directly involved in the conversation and you don’t have permission from at least one of the speakers, keep your phone in your pocket.
Can I record someone in Missouri without their permission?
Under Missouri law, it’s generally legal to record people in a public space without asking their permission, though there may be restrictions on publishing the recording. There is no expectation of privacy in a public space like a park or on the street.
There is an expectation of privacy in a private space like a home or business. So while you may be able to record your neighbor when they’re on the sidewalk, you can’t record them in their living room.
Missouri laws are the same regarding both audio and video recording.
Recording phone calls
To legally record a phone call, you need the permission of at least one person on the call. This is the same restriction as recording an in-person conversation, but it actually falls under a different law – Missouri’s wiretapping statute.
The state’s wiretapping law hasn’t quite caught up with the digital age; judges have applied it differently to wired landlines, cordless phones, and cell phones. Your best bet is to treat phone calls the same as in-person conversations and get the express consent of at least one party before you hit record.
Even if your video doesn’t include an audio track, the rules for recording are the same – don’t record people in a private space without their permission.
If you have security cameras, avoid putting them in rooms where people would have an expectation of privacy. This would include anywhere they might dress or undress, like bedrooms, bathrooms, or changing rooms. It’s a separate invasion of privacy offense to photograph or record video of a person without their permission if they are fully or partially nude or in a place they could expect to undress in private.
Is it legal to record public officials?
Recording public meetings
Missouri law permits audio and video recording of any open meeting, such as school board or city council meetings. To minimize disruptions, the law gives the public body the right to establish rules and guidelines about how recording may be carried out. For example, they might limit how many people can record or where in the room recording devices can be set up.
Closed meetings cannot be recorded without the permission of the public body.
Recording court proceedings
The public is not typically allowed to record court proceedings. In most cases, judges only grant permission to record to the media.
Anyone who wants to record a judicial proceeding in the state of Missouri must apply to the sitting judge for permission. Whatever the judge decides, you have to abide by.
Missouri Recording Laws FAQs
Is it legal for the police to record me?
Missouri’s wiretapping law allows law enforcement to record conversations without permission as part of a criminal investigation, but only if the recording has been authorized by the courts. This includes video surveillance if the video has an audio track.
In many cities, police wear body cameras that record their interactions with the public. Police body camera recordings taken in a non-public space must be kept confidential.
If you were recorded on a police body camera, you have the right to a copy of the video, but you must also keep it private unless the court approves its release.
Can I record a police officer in Missouri?
Yes, it’s legal to record police officers in the line of duty as long as you don’t trespass or break any other laws to get the footage.
One-party consent still applies. Unless you’re in a public space with no expectation of privacy, you can record your conversation with a police officer but you can’t record conversations between the officer and someone else unless you have permission.
Are recorded conversations admissible in Missouri courts?
Generally speaking, recorded conversations are admissible as evidence as long as they were legally obtained.
Can I sue someone for recording me without my permission?
Because Missouri is a one-party consent state, your conversations may be legally recorded without your permission as long as at least one other speaker in the conversation gave consent.
If no one gave consent for the recording and you were in a place where you had a reasonable expectation of privacy, you can sue for damages. The person who made the recording might also face criminal charges.
What are my legal options?
If you have a question about whether you can record someone or whether your privacy was violated, reach out and talk to an attorney. We can answer your questions and explain how the law applies to your specific situation.
Gonzalo Fernandez is a personal injury attorney based in St. Louis. He regularly uses his legal expertise to offer insight on events impacting Missourians. Recent media appearances include the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, CBS St. Louis, Fox 2, and KPLR 11. To speak to Gonzalo, call (314) 433-9131 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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