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District of Columbia

In the District of Columbia, an individual may record or disclose the contents of a wire or oral communication if he or she is a party to the communication, or has received prior consent from one of the parties, unless the recording is done with criminal or injurious intent. A recording made without proper consent can be punished criminally by a fine of no more than $10,000 or imprisonment for no more than five years, or both. D.C. Code Ann. § 23-542.

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.” D.C. Code Ann. § 23-542

Besides being subject to criminal liability, anyone who illegally records or discloses the contents of a communication is also 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. D.C. Code Ann. § 23-554.

The statute specifically prohibits the District of Columbia from asserting any governmental immunity to avoid liability under the wiretapping laws. However, a good faith reliance on a court order or legislative authorization shall constitute a complete defense. D.C. Code Ann. § 23-554.


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