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Surveillance Legalities

Please note that this information is general and was current at the time of this writing, but is not to be considered legal advice. Laws change constantly, so be sure to check your laws before engaging in any type of surveillance. If you know of a change or see an error, please contact us. We do not answer legal questions or provide legal advice. If you have questions regarding surveillance laws in your area, contact your local law enforcement agency or an attorney that is educated in your local statutes.

Hidden Camera Laws

In general, it’s illegal to obtain video surveillance of someone with the intent of using for blackmail or other malicious purposes. It is also illegal to take video surveillance of an individual in a place of “expected privacy”, where the surveillance will violate specific privacy laws. These “expected privacy” locations may include:
  • Bedrooms
  • Bathrooms
  • Locker Rooms
  • Dressing Rooms
  • Changing Rooms
  • Hotel Rooms


However, not every state has a law that expressly prohibits unauthorized installation of cameras in private locations. In some states, it is legal to install cameras in these locations if it has been authorized by the property owner. The following states deem it illegal to install hidden cameras in places of privacy:
  • South Dakota
  • New Hampshire
  • Utah
  • Michigan
  • Maine
  • Minnesota
  • Kansas
  • Hawaii
  • Delaware
  • California
  • Georgia
  • Arkansas
  • Alabama


Some states have laws that make it illegal to trespass on private property in order to obtain hidden camera surveillance. These states include:
  • Hawaii
  • Alabama
  • South Dakota
  • Minnesota
  • Maine
  • Kansas
  • Delaware
  • Michigan
  • Georgia
  • Utah


Hidden Cameras in your Home

In general, you are entitled to install a hidden surveillance camera in your home for purposes of safety or home security. The footage captured on this camera may be able to be used in court when prosecuting an individual caught breaking the law within your home. However, some states do prohibit the use of hidden surveillance cameras that also capture audio. This means that a surveillance tape with audio may not be able to be used in a court prosecution. States that don’t allow you to capture audio without the person’s express consent include:
  • Washington
  • Pennsylvania
  • Oregon
  • New Hampshire
  • Nevada
  • Montana
  • Massachusetts
  • Maryland
  • Louisiana
  • Illinois
  • Hawaii
  • Florida
  • Delaware
  • Connecticut
  • California


Hidden Cameras in Businesses

Many businesses use video surveillance systems (either hidden or within view) in order to promote the security of their business. These cameras can help catch thieves or shoplifters within a business, and can also allow the company’s security to identify any dangerous or illegal activity, and it is legal.

Audio Recording

The recording of covert audio without consent is almost always illegal. Thus, our "covert" cameras do not come with audio capabilities, except select SleuthGear Covert products may be purchased with audio option in these circumstances:
  1. For export to addresses outside the United States
  2. If in the United States, for law enforcement agencies that provide a letter on letterhead stating that the purchaser is the individual that is authorized to use the device


Nearly all audio recording without consent of one or all parties is unlawful. Recording audio is very different from video, and there are definite federal and state laws prohibiting surreptitious recording and monitoring of audio interactions. These laws are taken extremely seriously by authorities and failure to adhere to them could result in serious consequences. There are two types of defined recording situations for audio recording. They are usually identified as "One Party Consent" and "Two Party Consent".

"One Party Consent" means that only the person doing the recording has to give consent and does not have to notify the other party or parties that the conversation is being recorded.

"Two Party Consent" means the person recording the conversation must notify all of the other parties that the recording is taking place and they must consent to the recording.

Federal Audio Recording Laws

The federal wiretapping statute, also known as the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, permits phone calls (traditional, cellular and cordless) and other electronic communication to be recorded with the consent of at least one party, or "one party consent", to the conversation. This means that should you be among the people taking part in the conversation, it may be recorded because one person has consented to the recording.

State Audio Recording Laws

  • States with "One Party Consent" for Audio Recording

    • Alabama
    • Alaska
    • Arizona
    • Arkansas
    • Colorado
    • District of Columbia
    • Georgia
    • Idaho
    • Indiana
    • Iowa
    • Kentucky
    • Louisiana
    • Maine
    • Minnesota
    • Mississippi
    • Missouri
    • Minnesota
    • Nebraska
    • New Jersey
    • New Mexico
    • New York
    • North Carolina
    • North Dakota
    • Oklahoma
    • Oregon
    • Ohio
    • Rhode Island
    • South Carolina
    • South Dakota
    • Tennessee
    • Texas
    • Vermont
    • Virginia
    • West Virginia
    • Wisconsin
    • Wyoming


  • States with "Two Party Consent" for Audio Recording

    • California
    • Connecticut
    • Delaware
    • Florida
    • Hawaii
    • Illinois
    • Kansas
    • Maryland
    • Massachusetts
    • Michigan
    • Montana
    • Nevada
    • New Hampshire
    • Pennsylvania
    • Utah
    • Washington


A Note About Intent

Since many US states have a “gray area” in regard to hidden camera surveillance, the concept of “intent” has often been brought into the legal spotlight. Should you be taking hidden video surveillance of your nanny to ensure that she is keeping your children safe, this is seen as acceptable intent. However, if you are taking video surveillance of visitors to your home in order to blackmail, this can be considered malevolent intent. It’s also illegal, as stated before, to take hidden video of individuals in locations of expected privacy in certain states.