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District of Columbia Recording Laws

District of Columbia Recording LawsDistrict of Columbia – D.C. Recording Law Summary:

D.C. Code § 23-542

District of Columbia recording law stipulates that it is a one party consent state.  In D.C. it is a criminal offense to use any device to record communications whether it’s wire, oral or electronic without the consent of at least one person taking part in the communication.  Albeit there is a caveat in that recording is allowed to take place if there is no reasonable expectation of privacy such as a public place such as a street or park.

This means that in D.C., you are legally allowed to record a conversation you take part in.

Special D.C. stipulations include a few slightly different rules.  D.C. Mun. Regs. § 24-521, -22 D.C recording laws requires street photographers selling their photographs to tourists to become licensed.  Specifically, once licensed these photographers must not impede traffic, or remain in one place for longer than 5 minutes.  This rule is typically only applied to street vendors who take photos of people to sell them.

Recording Personal Conversations in D.C.:

You may not record conversations that you are not a part of without the consent of at least one party.

D.C. Code § 23-542 Consent is required to record conversations in which there is a legal expectation of privacy, though consent is not required in places where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy such as a street or park.

If you are a third party and require consent from the parties taking part in the conversation the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) states that you may gain consent to make a recording by:

  • Getting verbal or written consent prior to the recording being made
  • A verbal notification being played before the conversation begins (For example:  “This phone call is being recorded for quality control purposes…”)
  • An audible beep tone being repeated at steady intervals during the duration of the conversation

Penalties:

D.C. Code § 23-542 In D.C. intercepting the contents of any oral or electronic communication without one party consent is a felony.  This can result in penalties of up to 5 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.  Breaking D.C’s voyeurism laws results in a punishment of up to one year in prison, and fines of up to $1000 D.C. Code § 23-3531(f).  Distributing any images in violation of the Districts voyeurism rules results in a felony punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment or fines of up to $5000 D.C. Code § 23-3531(f)(2).  For Civil suits anyone who illegally  records and/or discloses private communication can be held liable for the greater of actual damages in the amount of $100 per day for each day in violation, or $1000 along with punitive damages, legal fees, and litigation costs D.C. Code § 23-554.

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