Washington Call Recording Law

Below is a section of the Washington State Statutes that we believe apply to recording phone conversations. This information is not intended as a substitute for legal counsel.

From the Washington State Code

Wash. Rev. Code § 9.73.030: All parties generally must consent to the interception or recording of any private communication, whether conducted by telephone, telegraph, radio or face-to-face, to comply with state law. The all-party consent requirement can be satisfied if "one party has announced to all other parties engaged in the communication or conversation, in any reasonably effective manner, that such communication or conversation is about to be recorded or transmitted." In addition, if the conversation is to be recorded, the requisite announcement must be recorded as well.

Moreover, an employee of a news organization engaged in newsgathering is deemed to have the requisite consent to record and divulge the contents of conversations "if the consent is expressly given or if the recording or transmitting device is readily apparent or obvious to the speakers." Anyone speaking to an employee of a news organization who has been deemed to have given consent cannot withdraw that consent after the communication has been made. Wash. Rev. Code § 9.73.030(4).

The Washington statute does not address the legality of divulging the contents of intercepted or recorded communications.

Whether a communication is considered "private" under the statute depends on the factual circumstances. Among the factors considered are the subjective intent of the parties; the reasonableness of their expectation of privacy; the duration and subject matter of the communication; the location of the communication and the presence of third parties; and the relationship between the consenting party and the non-consenting party. State v. Townsend, 57 P.2d 255 (Wash. 2002). A person who sends e-mail to another person has consented to the "recording" of that e-mail. Id.

Any violation of the statute is a misdemeanor. Wash. Rev. Code § 9.73.080. Civil liability is expressly authorized for actual damages, including mental pain and suffering, or $100 per day of violation — but no more than $1,000 total based on this daily calculation. Attorney fees and litigation costs also can be recovered. Wash. Rev. Code § 9.73.060.

Important Notice

It is always best to talk with an attorney if you have questions about the legal implications of recording calls in your state. We hope this information will serve as a general guide, and is not intended to substitute for expert legal counsel.