Generally, yes. Lawfully obtained relevant evidence is generally admissible. In Kansas, it is legal to record a conversation if at least one party to the conversation knows about and consents to the recording.
In other words, if a person secretly records a conversation with another person, that recording is lawful. If a person secretly records a conversation two unaware people are having, that recording is unlawful.
Kansas Recording Laws
Kansas law makes it illegal to secretly use any device to listen to, record, or amplify a private conversation in a private place “without the consent of the person or persons entitled to privacy therein.” Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-6101(a)(4). The Kansas Supreme Court has interpreted this to require only one party’s consent. State v. Roudybush, 686 P.2d 100, 108 (Kan. 1984). Once a party consents to record a conversation, recording it is lawful, even if the other parties don’t know it is being recorded or refuse to give consent.
Kansas law also makes it illegal for a person to enter a private place with the intent to secretly listen in on private conversation. Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-6101(a)(3). A “private place” is somewhere a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-6101(f). Therefore, it is legal in Kansas to record conversations in public and other places where the conversing parties do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
It is also illegal in Kansas to intercept any message sent “by telephone, telegraph, letter, or other means of private communication” without at least one party to the conversation consenting to the disclosure. Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-6101(a)(1). This applies the law to text messages and emails. To be unlawful, the interception must occur while the message is in transit, such as through a telephone or data wiretap. Reviewing emails after they were sent did not violate the law. State v. Brooks, 265 P.3d 1175, 1190 (Kan. Ct. Apps. 2011), rev’d on other grounds, 317 P.3d 54 (Kan. 2014).
Illegally recording, intercepting, or divulging the contents of any private communications is a misdemeanor. Penalties include up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. A victim can also pursue civil damages against a person who breaks this law. Anyone whose confidential oral, wire, or electronic communications are unlawfully intercepted, disclosed, or used may recover actual damages in a civil suit equal to $100 per day or $1,000, whichever is greater. Punitive damages and attorney’s fees are also recoverable. Kan. Stat. Ann. §22-2518.
Federal Laws and Interstate Recordings
The federal Wiretap Act makes it illegal to secretly record an oral, telephonic, or electronic communication that the conversing parties reasonably expect to be private. 18 U.S.C. § 2511.
However, a recording otherwise in violation of the Wiretap Act is legal if one person to the conversation consents to the recording, or the person making the secret recording is authorized by law. There is also an exception allowing employers to record phone calls on employer-owned phones provided to employees.
People also often want to know if they can record the police. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, which includes Kansas, held that “there is a First Amendment right to film the police performing their duties in public.” Irizarry v. Yehia (10th Cir. July 11, 2022). The Tenth Circuit said this right “falls squarely within the First Amendment’s core purposes to protect free and robust discussion of public affairs, hold government officials accountable, and check abuse of power.”
Admissibility of Recorded Conversations in Kansas
Recorded conversations can be used as evidence so long as they were not illegally obtained.
How an Attorney Can Help You
If you have a question about whether you can record a conversation or whether someone else’s recording can be used against you, Davis Business Law would love to help you. Our Kansas business attorneys frequently handle situations like these, such as recordings made in business disputes with partners or customers. Call us today at (316) 252-2291 for Wichita or (913) 352-2056 for Kansas City. You can also contact us online for a free consultation.