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Can you legally record someone without their consent?


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jp1203's Avatar
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01-Apr-2008, 04:03 PM #1
Can you legally record someone without their consent?
Okay, here's the situation:

A friend of mine has someone that bothers them on their bus on a daily basis. Today, they threw their backpack across the bus and bent the laptop inside the backpack about 1 cm. They were informed that there was a laptop in the bag, but threw it anyway. There are several witnesses that would testify that it wasn't bent before this person threw the bag.

Other days, this year and last, he frequently insults my friend and uses poor language and whatever else toward him.

The administration has been informed many times and the most they have given him is a few day bus suspension, the assistant principal is a joke, to be quite honest. He is more apt to give someone a detention for being tardy to homeroom than to punish this person much at all after being informed several times over the course of months of his poor activities.

Because the assistant principal is doing close to nothing to help, we figure it would be appropriate to get mounds of concrete proof. According to the handbook, with the number and nature of his offenses his riding privileges should have been suspended for the year some time ago.

He has the laptop and witnesses of proof of property damage, but he could simply record the bully's threats with his mp3 player secretly to get more proof. Is this legal in MA? I know it's legal in other states. It would certainly have to get the vice principal to do something for once. He's been informed many other times and he doesn't do much of anything about it.
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01-Apr-2008, 08:44 PM #2
Hi Joe,

I would enlist the aid of your parents in terms of seeking their approval. Now, if you were talking about a phone call, I believe it is illegal to record someone without telling them - unless, they are making threats or conducting some sort of harassment. Otherwise, with someones permission on a phone call - its ok afaik.

With regard to being bullied on a bus to/from a public school, then my guess (because I do not really know which is why I am recommending you seek an adults both permission and point-of-view in discussion about the problem and what you are thinking of doing) is that it might well be ok - since the kid is behaving as a bully. Evidence is evidence. Give it to the parents and let them harass the assist principal which is what he deserves for his inaction - sounds like a gutless wonder to me!

-- Tom (also in MA)
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01-Apr-2008, 08:58 PM #3
But what would you do if you can not get the approval of your parents because they are afraid of what the person may do afterwards. my parents don't approve of things like that (which by the way this person is me)

Last edited by lufkinp6; 01-Apr-2008 at 09:05 PM..
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02-Apr-2008, 11:42 AM #4
I think it has been ruled that people cannot expect privacy when in public, as I think people have sued the state and corporations for recording them in public and in their stores/locations and lost. So by your friend recording what is happening in his surroundings and not invading another persons private space, it certainly is not illegal as the person is in public, and, should the device then show, making threats against another person.
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02-Apr-2008, 02:09 PM #5
Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 272 , 99: It is a crime to record any conversation, whether oral or wire, without the consent of all parties in Massachusetts. The penalty for violating the law is a fine of up to $10,000 and a jail sentence of up to five years.

Disclosure of the contents of an illegally recorded conversation, when accompanied by the knowledge that it was obtained illegally, is a misdemeanor that can be punished with a fine of up to $5,000 and imprisonment for up to two years. Civil damages are expressly authorized for the greater of actual damages, $100 for each day of violation or $1,000. Punitive damages and attorney fees also are recoverable.
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02-Apr-2008, 07:19 PM #6
Hi Davec,

Granted, the MA law notwithstanding, I think the issue is rather - if transportation on a public school bus is considered "Public" then as johnnyburst79 said.

-- Tom
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02-Apr-2008, 08:27 PM #7
It's all kind of difficult. Many states allow you to record whatever you want; but of course MA doesn't.

On the other hand, this is used strictly as evidence toward this person. The bus company refuses to install a functional camera and has no way to install audio recording, and the vice principal says "witnesses are not enough" in his actions. How else is evidence going to be gathered? This person needs to be stopped, but the amazingly incompetent vice principal does nothing. It's probably time to go over his head. Why doesn't he take the word of several 'A and B' students who have probably never had so much as a detention over one F student who has been caught with cigarettes in his locker, been kicked out of class several times, etc. To be honest, I have no sympathy for him. I hold people to a high standard and he falls way below that in my mind, he has the equivalent respect by my standard that I give to a mosquito. I am civil to him, but that's about it. His actions are despicable and he has no respect for anyone else. He never learns, probably because he's never punished enough.
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