Ex-Girlfriend Recorded Conversation – Is it Legal?
The ex-girlfriend of actor Mel Gibson, Oksana Grigorieva, has reported that she did not leak the contents of the conversations she recorded with Mel Gibson to the media. As one might expect, Mel does not believe her.
What many people do not realize is that the recording of a telephone conversation can be illegal; it is considered wiretapping. State laws can vary as to what constitutes wiretapping. There is also a federal statute dealing with wiretapping. All of these laws make it a criminal offense to record someone else’s telephone conversations. So, why is there no discussion about Ms. Grigorieva being brought up on criminal charges? That is because some states’ laws allow a conversation to be recorded if one of the parties to the conversation agrees to the recording. If California, where the recording took place, allows for one party to consent to the recording, then she is not in violation of the law, because she would have, presumably, agreed to the recordings of her conversations with Mr. Gibson. Federal law requires the permission of one of the parties. In contrast, Pennsylvania law requires the consent of all parties to the conversation. So, it Mr. Gibson were in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and his ex-girlfriend were Erie, PA, then both parties to the conversation would have to agree to allow the conversation to be recorded.
It is also a violation of the Pennsylvania law to use the recorded conversation in any court proceedings. Most attorneys do not want to know if their clients have recordings of conversations between their client and the other party. The situation is different with messages left on voice mail or on answering machines. In those situations, the person leaving the message is implicitly giving his or her approval to have the statement recorded.
Since Gibson and Grigorieva have been involved in child custody, child support, domestic violence cases, efforts may be made to use any statements in evidence in any pending proceedings. If the statements were legally obtained, i.e. there was no violation of the state or federal wiretapping laws, as statements made by the parties, they would be admissible in court.
In the coming weeks, more scrutiny will be applied to, not only what Mel Gibson allegedly said, but also to the circumstances surrounding the recording and disclosure of those conversations.