One-Party Consent Laws in Minnesota
If you follow entertainment news, you likely know that Taylor Swift and Kanye West have an ongoing feud. Whether it’s Kanye’s claim that Beyoncé should have won Taylor’s Video Music Award, or Taylor making reference to his gaffe in her songs, there always seems to be another misstep in their relationship. Last summer, Kim Kardashian released a Snapchat she took of a conversation between Kanye and Taylor, seemingly without her consent. This led to yet another flurry of controversy: Did Kim and Kanye break the law? If so, will Taylor press charges?
Ultimately, the story faded into obscurity without anyone filing charges. This situation, however, begs an important question in today’s world of Snapchat and Instagram video: What are the recording laws in our state, and can I be sued for what I post online?
Wiretapping Laws in Minnesota
Minnesota does have a recording or wiretapping statute on the books, and it’s very similar to the federal law. Minnesota’s law states that a person may record a wire, electronic, or oral communication as long as the person recording is party to the conversation, or if one party has consented to the recording. This only applies if there is criminal or tortious intent. You can’t record a conversation to commit fraud or blackmail, even if you’re party to the conversation. You also can’t intentionally intercept a conversation between two people if you’re not party to it. If you violate this law, you can face criminal charges.
If someone has used a communication against you, you may wonder how to prove criminal or tortious intent. According to Minnesota law, “the burden of proof is on the accuser.” You must provide sufficient evidence that your communications were intercepted for nefarious purposes.
What Are the Penalties for Wiretapping?
The most famous wiretapping case in American history is when Richard Nixon was implicated in recording conversations at the Watergate office complex, home of the Democratic National Committee. When the Senate began investigating these and other wiretapping activities, the President faced certain impeachment. Nixon resigned the office of the Presidency in August of 1974, but never served time for his crimes. He was pardoned by his successor, Gerald Ford, a month later. Today, virtually every political scandal has a -gate suffix linked to it, an homage to this historic crime.
As an ordinary citizen, however, what penalties can you face if charged with illegally recording a conversation? It’s important to understand there are two types of penalties regarding wiretapping: criminal and civil. The maximum criminal penalty for wiretapping is up to five years imprisonment or up to $20,000 in fines, or both.
If someone is caught wiretapping, the plaintiff can also file a civil suit to collect damages (such as defamation of character) that resulted from the recording. Recording conversations that cross state or jurisdictional lines can impose additional fines and be held to the statutes outlined for each state.
Do I Have a Case for Wiretapping?
Thanks to social media platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram, it’s easy to quickly disseminate information online. But think before you post: Social media provides quick and easy evidence of wrongdoing. You can legally post a conversation between you and a friend; however, according to Minnesota law, you can’t post a conversation between other people unless you have the consent from one of the parties.
If someone illegally records or posts one of your conversations without your consent or the consent of the person you were talking to, you may have a legitimate claim for wiretapping. Always consult with a southern Minnesota civil attorney to discuss your options.