Wiretapping Consent States


What is Wiretapping?

This article provides an overview of wiretapping, including a review of the Wiretap Act and a list of one-party and two-party consent states. Wiretapping, also known as telephone tapping, is the process of monitoring telephone and Internet conversations by a third party, often covertly. Wiretapping received its name because the monitoring connection was a physical, electrical tap placed on the telephone line. 

The Wiretap Act

The Wiretap Act (18 U.S. Code § 2511) is a federal law that protects privacy in communications with other persons. Under the Act, it is illegal to intentionally or purposefully intercept, disclose, or use the contents of any wire, oral, or electronic communication through the use of a “device.” There are civil and criminal penalties for violating the Act, but exceptions exist.

Types of Wiretapping

Intentional wiretapping refers to someone who deliberately intercepts the communication. Ignorance of the law cannot be used as a defense when it is violated. Legal wiretapping by a government agency is also called “lawful interception.” Passive wiretapping monitors or records the conversation traffic, while active wiretapping alters or otherwise affects it.

Eavesdropping is simply listening to other people’s conversations without their knowledge. Usually, no special equipment is involved or necessary for someone to eavesdrop on a conversation. In some situations, private investigators use sound amplification equipment to listen to conversations at a distance. 

How Wiretapping Works

HowStuffWorks has a great video that explains how the process works.

The following states require only one party to consent to recording a phone call or conversation to make the recording lawful.

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • District of Columbia (Washington D.C.)
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Michigan (see other statutes)
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island (see case law)
  • South Carolina (no statute, see case law)
  • South Dakota
  • Tennesee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin (see other statutes)
  • Wyoming

The following states require the consent of every party to record a phone call or conversation to make the recording lawful.

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • Pennsylvania
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Illinois

What do Private Investigators Need to Know?

Private investigators need to know that wiretapping is illegal. Intentionally using wiretapping technology to intercept communications violates the law and will carry consequences.

In cases where a private investigator is conducting counter-surveillance, it may be helpful to understand what a physical tap looks like and how it operates. Having an understanding of the technology used will help investigators uncover evidence of wiretaps. Private investigators can use electronic bug detectors to scan for such devices.

Mobile Phone Spy Software

Mobile Phone Spy Software is a similar process used by parents and employers to monitor phones and computers that they own. For more legal definitions, visit our Glossary of Legal and Investigation Terms.

Questions and Comments

Please leave a message below if you have any questions about wiretapping or phone tapping.

Michael Kissiah is the owner of Brandy Lane Publishing, LLC, which owns and operates a small portfolio of websites, including eInvestigator.com. Michael created eInvestigator.com more than 20 years ago after working as a private investigator in the state of Florida. Since that time, he has become an expert at how to find information online and has written over 1000 articles on topics related to the investigation industry. In addition, he is the author of the "Private Investigator Licensing Handbook", available at Amazon.com.


  1. Hello,
    Is there a Mobile spy app that does not require you/me to physically have the Targets Cell phone in hand and install the spy app onto there phone? Or do you know what Agencies or Law enforcement uses to Remotely Monitor a Targets phone?
    Thank you for your Guidance and Well put together Webpage.


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