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Basically I suspect that someone I know is spreading malicious rumors about me, which I think falls under defamation. I've thought about trying to talk with them and find the answer, but if they do admit to it, I have nothing to go with but hearsay, so I thought about recording the convo without their knowledge. While trying to find an answer I've found mixed results. Some sources says under no circumstances, some say if a crime is being committed, and one says if it's within a public domain. Also if there is a good resource to find legal answers for local, state, and federal laws i'ld definitely appreciate it.

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Maryland is a two party consent state, meaning that all people in a conversation must consent to being recorded. There are certain exemptions, but your stated use case would not be one of them.

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I don't know much about Maryland's law specifically, but this question frequently comes up in the context of newsgathering.

To that end, the Reporter's Committee for Freedom of the Press has a pretty helpful Reporters' Recording Guide, which will walk you through the differences in the law from state to state, much of which would probably be informative for your purposes, as well. You can also just jump straight to the recording laws in Maryland.

Wiretapping laws are no joke, though, so you should consult a lawyer before proceeding.

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So for the purposes of what you're asking, Oral Conversation does not count as electronic conversation (basically, if you call on the phone, it's electronic. If you're chatting with him in person, it's oral). Thus, the capture of Audio by a recording device relies on "reasonable expectation of privacy" which is circumstantial. If you are in a public place (not a bathroom, changing room, or similar) where another party could hear the conversation has no reasonable expectation to privacy. Thus if you could get this person in a publicly accessible area, it could be legal.

This article cites several case laws that further clarify the matter and was written by a practicing MD Lawyer and cites MD case law. As the disclaimer on the bottom notes, it's probably best to consult a lawyer before you carry out your recording just to be sure. Many offices do consultations for free.

  • Maybe I'm missing something in the article, but this appears to be totally wrong. It shouldn't matter if it was electronic or not, as the statute explicitly covers "oral" communications. §10-402(a)(1). In any event, the fact that the OP is talking about recording his own conversation with the other party indicates that the other party would have no reasonable expectation of privacy in that conversation. – bdb484 Nov 30 '18 at 2:53
  • @bdb484: Reasonable Right to Privacy is about where the conversation occurs, not the sensitivity of the conversation. If OP was in his target's house (or in his own house) and recorded it would trigger the law, but if the conversation was in a crowded restaurant or on the street or in a mall, then anyone could possibly listen into the conversation and thus you do not have an expectation of privacy. Even then, if you are in a booth with no one around, it can get dicey... hence why I suggested to run the play by a lawyer first. – hszmv Nov 30 '18 at 18:21
  • @bdb484: As for the electronic issue, that point got away from me. Basically, overhearing an oral conversation does not count as an electronic intercept. Only recording it does, if there is reasonable exception of privacy. – hszmv Nov 30 '18 at 18:25
  • Definitely agree that the OP should get a lawyer. Disagree, though, on reasonable expectation of privacy. Maryland rejects the location-based inquiry and uses Katz to test whether a conversation is "private" within the meaning of its wiretap statute. So if they're talking loud enough, the statute wouldn't prevent you from standing outside a couple's home and recording their conversations inside. Malpas v. State, 116 Md. App. 69 (1997) (“What a person knowingly exposes to the public, even in his own home or office, is not a subject of Fourth Amendment protection.”). – bdb484 Nov 30 '18 at 19:19

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