In the digital age, people are quick to pull out their phones and videotape interactions either to use as evidence, or simply for their own entertainment. The laws vary greatly from state to state regarding recorded conversations, which begs the question: Can a person sue for personal injury in Montana for illegal videotaping or recording?


In Montana, a one-party consent law exists. Under state law, a person may record a conversation legally if one party provides permission. For example, if you were to record a conversation between yourself and another person, you do not need to obtain the other party’s permission first. Further, you may record conversations between two or more different people, if one person involved in the conversation gives consent. However, the secret recording, or “bugging” of a person’s home or private dwelling is illegal.


Video recordings, on the other hand, work a little differently. If a person wants to videotape something, everyone involved in the video must provide consent under Montana law. For example, you may not install hidden cameras to check on a spouse or any other individual. To comply with state law, it is essential to inform anyone of potential recording activities and to put those in clearly visible, public places.


In recent years, police misconduct has been the center of national headlines. This raises natural questions about the legality of recording police and their interactions with the public. Since the police are public servants, all citizens have the right to record police in both private and public settings under the Fifth Amendment. Police cannot bar a person from recording, and most courts will see this as a violation of due process.


If a person records a conversation or other interaction in violation of Montana law, the person doing the recording may face criminal charges for wiretapping. People in violation of the statute may face jail time and fines. Additionally, the subject of the recording may be able to pursue civil charges for the damages that may arise from such a recording.

An illegal videotape may have several negative consequences. For example, a person may suffer a blow in social standing or opportunity, which may lay the groundwork for defamation of character. Depending on the nature of the recording, a person may also suffer emotional harm or long-term psychological effects.

If a person suffers any losses – such as loss in financial opportunity or intangible losses such as emotional anguish — from an illegal recording, it presents an opportunity for a civil claim. The victim may be able to file a lawsuit against the recorder and gain compensation for both economic and non-economic losses that result. In some cases, a person may even be able to pursue punitive damages against the defendant to punish them for the illegal recording.

The laws surrounding videotaping, recording, and consent in Montana can be complex. In general, it is a good idea to gain consent from all parties involved before hitting record, except for police officers, who do not enjoy the same right to privacy while on duty. If a person suffers losses such as financial harm or mental anguish as the result of illegal recordings, he or she may have options for legal recourse in the form of a civil suit.