Washington Recording Laws

Washington Recording Law Summary: Washington recording law

Washington recording law stipulates that it is a two-party consent state. In Washington, it is a criminal offense to use any device to record communications, whether they are wire, oral or electronic, without the consent of everyone taking part in the conversation. This means that in Washington you are not legally allowed to record a conversation you are taking part in unless all parties are in agreement. In order for recorded communications to be considered lawful, at least one participant must announce their intention to record the conversation to all contributing parties and include this announcement in the recording. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.73.030 (West 2012).

Personal Conversations:

You may not record conversations without including proof of consent from all involved parties within the recording in question. 

Washington law does make an exception in cases where the person or people communicating are doing so in an environment where they should not be under the expectation of privacy. The courts consider three factors in determining whether a conversation qualifies as private and is therefore protected under the state’s wiretap provisions. Lewis v. Washington, 139 P.3d 1078 (Wash. 2006).

  1. The topic and length of communication.
  2. Where the communication took place and whether a third party did or could have overheard.*
  3. The actions of the party who did not consent and their relationship with the party who did.

*Washington’s Supreme Court has decided that the presence of a third party typically disqualifies a conversation as private. Washington v. Clark, 916 P.2d 384 (Wash. 1996).

Washington Video Recording Laws

It is considered a crime of voyeurism in the first degree, for sexual gratification purposes, to knowingly view, photograph or film:

  • Another person while he or she is in a place where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy without the consent and knowledge of that person. For example, pointing your security camera at your neighbor’s backyard is illegal because that is a place in which he or she is entitled to privacy.
  • The intimate areas of another person under circumstances where the person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, whether in a public or private place, and without that person’s consent and knowledge.

Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9A.44.115(2)(a)

It is considered a crime of voyeurism in the second degree to intentionally photograph or film another person’s intimate areas with the intention of distributing or disseminating the photograph or film, without that person’s knowledge and consent, and under circumstances where the person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, whether in a public or private place.

Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9A.44.115(3)(a)

Penalties:

Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.73.080: Secretly recording an oral or electronic conversation is considered a gross misdemeanor.

Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9A.44.115(2)(b): Voyeurism in the first degree is a Class C felony punishable by imprisonment not exceeding 5 years and $10,000 in fines.

Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9A.44.115(3)(b): Voyeurism in the second degree is a gross misdemeanor punishable by 90 days to 1 year in jail and fines not exceeding $5000.

4 Comments

  1. Tempe

    Who do I report illegal workplace audio recording to in Washington State?

    Reply
    • Adam

      If you are being improperly recorded at work in Washington your best bet would be to gather evidence consult a lawyer.

      Reply
  2. Terri Brown

    I have a resident taking video, while being inside his apartment, of a contractor doing repairs outside on the residents deck. The contractor does not want to be recording in any way. What can we and/or the contractor do to have the resident stop recording?

    Reply
    • Adam

      Essentially the resident is shooting a surveillance video on their own residence. This is well within their rights, the only legal loophole leg you would have to stand on is if the resident was also capturing audio which has slightly different protections than that of a regular surveillance video. I would still say the resident is within their rights, as long as they are being reasonable about it.

      Reply

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