Articles Posted in Privacy of Conversations

What used to be clear is no longer so. Chapter 934 of the Florida statutes prohibits “any person” from recording oral communications without consent and disclosing such recordings. Simply put, you could not record a conversation with someone if they didn’t okay it first. That was, until recently. On June 7, 2013, the Second District Court of Appeals ruled in McDade v. State that such may not always be the case. The court held, based upon the 1985 Florida Supreme Court opinion in State v. Inciarrano, that a citizen does not have an expectation of privacy in what they say if the content of the statement is something that society is not willing to protect.

Mr. McDade was recorded by his step-daughter in the bedroom of his home without his knowledge. The court wrote that “though he did not use sexually explicit language, he appeared to be asking her to have sex with him.” The Second District found that society would not accept that there was a privacy interest in the comments made by Mr. McDade and therefore, no law was broken. Whether you have a right to privacy depends on “what” you say.

So what does this mean? The ruling of the Second District now requires that individual judges across the state determine what society thinks is acceptable. Courts will decide on a case-by-case basis if the “content” of a statement is against societal standards. If it is, no law is broken and the recording can be used against someone in court. If it is not, then the person recording has committed a felony and the statement can’t come into court. This will be a difficult rule for courts to apply consistently across the state. What is acceptable by society in Miami may not be acceptable in Pensacola.

A corollary issue to the blog written below, “Recording Telephone Conversations and Communications in Florida,” about the recording of telephone conversations is a person’s reasonable expectations of privacy in police stations and in the back of police squad cars.

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People being interviewed or detained should be aware there is no right to a reasonable expectaion of privacy in their conversations in either of these locations. Most squad cars these days are equipped with recording devices that record a suspect’s statements while sitting in the back of the squad car. Often times, suspects are deliberately placed in squad cars together without police supervision by officers so a recording can be made of their conversation. A recent appellate court decision held that even when a third-party overhears or records a conversation between a suspect and his wife in a police station, even if they are not suspects or being interviewed, their is no “marital privilege” and the officer can testify about the conversation. Boyd v. State, __ So. 3d __, 34 F.L.W. D1698 (4th DCA8/19/09).