The Catholic University of America

Summary of District of Columbia Laws

Recording Communications

D.C. Code Ann. §§ 23-541 through 23-556

Under D.C. Code Ann. § 23-542, it is legal to record or disclose the contents of a wire or oral communication where the person recording is a party to the communication, or where one of the parties has given prior consent, unless the recording is done with criminal or injurious intent. A "wire communication" includes communication occurring over the internet. § 23-541

A recording made willfully without proper consent can be punished criminally by a fine of no more than $10,000 or imprisonment for no more than five years. However, disclosure of the contents of an illegally recorded communication cannot be punished criminally if the contents of the communication have "become common knowledge or public information."

Anyone who illegally records or discloses the contents of a communication is subject to civil liability for the greater of actual damages, damages in the amount of $100 per day for each day of violation, or $1,000, along with punitive damages, attorney fees and litigation costs. § 23-554.

The substantive D.C. provisions on wire and oral communication expressly state that they "shall be construed to supplement, and not to supersede or otherwise limit" the Federal law, 18 U.S.C. § 119. D.C. Code § 23-556. While D.C. law does not explicitly include "electronic communication," such as e-mail, Federal law does. See 18 U.S.C. § 2510.

Revised CPJ 5-14-07
Revised NTC 11-6-07
links updated 6/6/08 rab
Links checked July 15th, 2010, FJL.