Laws on Tape Recording Without Consent in South Carolina

By Stephanie Reid ; Updated June 14, 2017
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South Carolina law provides a variety of restrictions and procedural considerations with respect to non-consensual recording. The South Carolina criminal procedure code provided guidelines on acts of spying on another or using any electronic devices to invade someone else's privacy. Not only are police forbidden from recording one's conversations without consent or court order, but private citizens also cannot record communications that they are not a party to. This type of conduct carries a minimum misdemeanor conviction.

Felony Acts

Under South Carolina Law 17-30-20, the following acts are consider felonies and are punishable by multiple years of incarceration: intentional interception of oral, written or electronic communication; procuring another to use illegal intercepted communication; intentional disclosure of the contents of illegally-obtained communication; or attempting to use the information contained within an illegally-obtained recording.

Lawful Interceptions of Communication

There are instances under South Carolina law where it is legal to record the written, oral or electronic communication of others. For instance, it is not a crime to record communication intended to be released to the general public, such as television or radio communication. It is also lawful to intercept the communication of any lawful consumer electronic equipment for purposes of reaching a source of interference. It is not illegal to intercept satellite broadcasts that are not encrypted and are meant for general public knowledge.

Peeping Toms

A separate section of the South Carolina Code states that it is a misdemeanor offense to engage in "peeping tom" conduct for purposes of recording another person either audibly or visually. The code defines a "peeping tom" as "a person who peeps through windows, doors, or other like places, on or about the premises of another, for the purpose of spying upon or invading the privacy of the persons spied upon and any other conduct of a similar nature, that tends to invade the privacy of others." Conviction under this statute carries a maximum jail sentence of three years.

Recorded Evidence

Section 17-30-65 states that no illegally recorded communication may be used as evidence in any trial, hearing or proceeding before the courts of South Carolina. Such evidence also may not be used by any grand jury, department, officer, agency, regulatory body, legislative committee or other authority of the state. The only time illegally recorded evidence may be used in court is to prosecute someone under the statute prohibiting illegally recording evidence.

About the Author

Stephanie Reid has been writing professionally since 2007, with work published in the Virginia Bar Association's "Family Law Quarterly" and the "Whittier Journal of Child and Family Advocacy." She received her Juris Doctor from Regent University and her Bachelor of Arts in French and child development from Florida State University. Reid is admitted to practice law in Delaware and Maryland.