Recording Conversations or Phone Calls in Missouri and Kansas

Clients often ask us if it is legal to record phone calls or conversations without telling the other parties to the conversation.  If you are in Kansas and Missouri and are speaking with someone in either state, it is generally legal to record the conversation. But there are some important things you should keep in mind before making the decision to secretly record a conversation.

Kansas and Missouri are both “one-party consent” states. Kan. Stat. Ann. §§ 21-4001(a)(3) & 21-4002(a)(1); Mo. Rev. Stat. § 542.402(2)(3). This means that if the recording party is part of the conversation, it is legal for him or her to record. On the other hand, it is illegal to record a conversation between people who are unaware of the recording if you are not a party to the conversation (wiretapping someone’s phone line, for example).

Federal law, like Kansas and Missouri, requires only one-party consent. This is true of most states. A minority of states, however, are “two-party consent” states. In these states, you must have consent from all parties to the conversation before recording. Have you ever wondered why all of your customer-service calls begin with the phrase, “this call may be recorded for quality assurance?” One reason is that companies do not want to risk running afoul of two-party consent laws.

Because so many businesses in today’s economy conduct business across state lines, it is important to keep in mind that conference calls may include people who are traveling or who are permanently located in other states. This makes recording such conversations risky, because it could lead to an inadvertent violation of another state’s consent laws.

What happens if you violate another state’s recording laws? Because of procedural and logistical issues involved, you might escape without any legal consequences. For an example of what could happen, though, one need only look to California, where an unlawful recording comes with potential civil and criminal penalties.

Before you record a conversation, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I in a one-party consent state (like Kansas and Missouri) or a two-party consent state (like California)?
  • Where are the other parties to the conversation located, and what are the laws in those states?
  • If I need to use the recording at a later date, will I be embarrassed to admit that I recorded the conversation?

The last bullet point is important. Just because you can do something does not mean you should do something. There are times when it may be essential to secretly record a conversation—when you are being threatened or intimidated, for instance. But in many other situations, particularly in the business world, the best practice is to be upfront about the fact that you are recording the phone call. You will then be free to use the recording without fear of being accused of breaking the law or acting unethically.

If you have a business dispute or other legal issue that involves phone recordings, please contact Pospisil Swift LLC to discuss your options. You can reach Mike Pospisil directly at 816.895.9105, or Matt Swift at 816.895.9107.

**The information contained on this website is informational only and not intended to be, and does not constitute, legal advice.  While we attempt to update our site regularly, the information does not necessarily reflect the most current legal developments.  You should not act or refrain from acting based upon information provided on this site without first consulting legal counsel.**

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