A Georgia court ruled that it was permissible to introduce into evidence in the criminal prosecution of a child molester a tape recording of a telephone call the victim’s mother had made between the victim and the molester.

Church Law and Tax 2001-11-01


Key point. The secret recording of oral or electronic conversations may violate state or federal wiretapping laws.

A Georgia court ruled that it was permissible to introduce into evidence in the criminal prosecution of a child molester a tape recording of a telephone call the victim’s mother had made between the victim and the molester. A minor girl informed her mother that she was involved in a sexual relationship with an adult male (Charlie). The mother refused to believe the rumors until her daughter invited her to listen in on a phone conversation between herself and Charlie. A short while later, the victim and her mother decided to tape subsequent conversations with Charlie in order to obtain proof of the sexual relationship. The mother installed a tape recorder and her daughter placed a call to Charlie which was recorded. Charlie was later charged with statutory rape, aggravated child molestation, criminal attempt to commit child molestation, and child molestation. He asked the court not to allow the audio tape into evidence, on the basis of a state law prohibiting the recording or taping of private telephone conversations. The trial court denied this request, noting that the law did not prohibit a party to the conversation from recording it. It pointed out that the victim was fully aware that the conversation was being taped. The victim testified that she voluntarily participated in the recording of her conversation, and encouraged it.

A state appeals court affirmed Charlie’s conviction. It noted that a state law permitted parents to intercept and record under certain circumstances telephone conversations to which their minor children are parties.

Application. Ministers and lay employees sometimes consider recording private telephone conversations between a staff member and a third party in an attempt to obtain evidence of wrongdoing. Before recording such conversations, it is important to recognize that the secret recording of oral or electronic communications may violate state or federal law and telephone company regulations. Because of the potentially serious legal consequences of secretly recording conversations, ministers and lay employees should not secretly record any oral or electronic communications without first obtaining an opinion from a local attorney as to the legality of such a practice under state and federal law. As the court in this case noted, many states have enacted laws that permit the secret recording of conversations so long as one party consents. But this is not true in all states. Further, telephone company regulations may impose additional restrictions on the recording of telephone conversations. Malone v. State, 541 S.E.2d 431 (Ga. App. 2000).

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations." Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

ajax-loader-largecaret-downcloseHamburger Menuicon_amazonApple PodcastsBio Iconicon_cards_grid_caretChild Abuse Reporting Laws by State IconChurchSalary Iconicon_facebookGoogle Podcastsicon_instagramLegal Library IconLegal Library Iconicon_linkedinLock IconMegaphone IconOnline Learning IconPodcast IconRecent Legal Developments IconRecommended Reading IconRSS IconSubmiticon_select-arrowSpotify IconAlaska State MapAlabama State MapArkansas State MapArizona State MapCalifornia State MapColorado State MapConnecticut State MapWashington DC State MapDelaware State MapFederal MapFlorida State MapGeorgia State MapHawaii State MapIowa State MapIdaho State MapIllinois State MapIndiana State MapKansas State MapKentucky State MapLouisiana State MapMassachusetts State MapMaryland State MapMaine State MapMichigan State MapMinnesota State MapMissouri State MapMississippi State MapMontana State MapMulti State MapNorth Carolina State MapNorth Dakota State MapNebraska State MapNew Hampshire State MapNew Jersey State MapNew Mexico IconNevada State MapNew York State MapOhio State MapOklahoma State MapOregon State MapPennsylvania State MapRhode Island State MapSouth Carolina State MapSouth Dakota State MapTennessee State MapTexas State MapUtah State MapVirginia State MapVermont State MapWashington State MapWisconsin State MapWest Virginia State MapWyoming State IconShopping Cart IconTax Calendar Iconicon_twitteryoutubepauseplay