By the A.T Law Office
As a Houston family law attorney who also practices some criminal defense case, one of the common questions I get is “can I record a conversation with someone if I don’t have their consent?” or “Can I videotape someone without their consent?” The quick answer is yes, in Texas you can, but here are more details you need to know:
One of the common misconceptions people have is because they do not have someone’s consent to record a conversation, that they cannot record them or that it would be illegal to record them. Some people think that while it may not be illegal, they wouldn’t be able to use the recording in court as evidence against the other person. This is not true, at least in Texas it is not.
You must be a party to the conversation to be able to record someone legally without their consent.
While some in some states it is illegal to record someone without their consent, in Texas you are allowed to record AND use the recording as evidence in court or criminal investigation, as long as you are a party to the conversation. This basically means that you CANNOT record (either by voice or video) other people’s conversations if you are not in that conversation. But if you are involved or part of the conversation or discussion, you are allowed to record the conversation without even having to notify the other person (or people if more than one person.)
Not only do you not need to get someone’s consent to record them, you don’t even have to notify them, as long as you are a party to the conversation.
So does this mean I can record someone without even telling them and still be able to use it as evidence against them in a potential lawsuit or investigation?
Yes, as stated above, you may record someone without their consent or knowledge AND be able to use it against them in court. In fact, this is one of the more useful ways to gain advantage in your case over the other party. For example, if the other person is talking to you in an aggressive or harsh tone, if they are hitting you, or saying something that is self-discriminating, recording them without notifying them can help bring justice, show the truth, and give you an advantage in court depending on the type of case you have. In family law cases, it can help you get a disproportionate share of assets (more on this to be discussed in other blogs), or help you get spousal support. In custody cases, it can help you in your battle to gain primary or sole custody and limit the other parent’s parental rights and visitations. In criminal cases, it can help exonerate criminal allegations against you, or if you are the victim, help arrest and convict the perpetrator.
Can camera footage be used in a divorce case?
Yes. If you are going through a divorce, or are in a shaky relationship in which you think a divorce may come soon, having security cameras in the house is a smart idea. I am in no way advocating purposely putting someone in a situation to hit the record button, but to assure you always stay alert and safe.
The A.T. Law Office is a contributing author to this blog and a link to this article on their web page can be found by clicking here.
Many people don't know that the vast majority of family law cases end up settling out of court. Most of the time out of court settlements are for good reason and can greatly simplify a family law case for all involved and eliminate some of the strain that is placed on the Texas family courts. Not only is it very expensive to take a case all the way to trial, but you know your situation better than a judge does and you are in a better position to decide what is going to work best for you and your family. A judge on the other hand is limited in the amount they know about your unique situation and is forced to make the best decision they can with the limited facts they can obtain from the parties during a divorce and/or child custody trial. That being said, mediation is not always the solution, sometimes one party or their attorney is completely unreasonable and you need court intervention to give them a reality check. This is certainly the more expensive route, but sometimes it can be worth it, especially given the important things that are at stake in many family law cases and their long lasting impact on people's lives. Judges work hard to apply Texas family law and a good outcome is possible. If you think you need a trial the Law Office of Chad Zubi can work to achieve that and will present your case in the most favorable light possible, call to set up your free consultation.
If you decide you would like to attend mediation, or if the court makes you which it commonly does, then this office can work to achieve a desirable outcome. Negotiation skill and knowledge of Texas family law is key. That being said, before you attend mediation it is important for you to understand something completely. A MEDIATED SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT IS BINDING. Texas laws give mediated settlement agreements a lot of weight and if you make an agreement then both parties are entitled to a court order that is based on the agreement. What I really want you to know, and if you take nothing else from this post, is that you should be sure about what you are agreeing to in mediation. You should be fully aware that you cannot take back the agreement no matter how much you think you should be able to. If you later realize that something in a mediated settlement agreement is unfair or that it isn't going to work as well as you thought it would then you are going to be out of luck. Even if you hire the best lawyer that money can buy to explain the situation, a judge is almost certainly going to tell you that there isn't anything that they can do for you because they lack the authority to alter the agreement you made in mediation. So again, be careful when making a family law agreement in mediation. It is wise to hire an experienced family lawyer to help you craft a good settlement strategy and agreement. Family lawyers have seen several cases in their careers and will be able to give you valuable insight as to whether what you want to do or what the other party proposes is a proper agreement.
Another thing about mediation is that although an agreement is binding and you cannot change your mind, remember that it is binding on both parties, not just you. Once you reach an agreement, and the judge of your particular court signs an order based on your agreement, then you can make the other party comply with the agreement. If the other party isn't complying with a court order than you would file what is known in Texas family law as an enforcement. An enforcement accuses the other party of non compliance and asks a court to make them do what they are supposed to and to possibly punish the offender with fines, jail time, or both. Make no mistake about it, it is very serious to have an enforcement filed against you and if you bring one against someone else then you should be sure that you are doing it for the right reasons. If you are on the receiving end of a family law enforcement case then I encourage you to enlist the services of a qualified family attorney to help you defend yourself. It is not uncommon for people to have a defense to the enforcement or for the attorney who is trying to enforce a court order to make vital mistakes that should be pointed out in a court. It is also useful to have someone on your team who knows what to do in court, not only is it harmful to your case for you to make missteps in court, but it can be an extremely unpleasant experience.
If you want to bring an enforcement against an offending party then you should know that their are very specific requirements under the Texas Family Code that must be met in order to be successful. It would be wise to hire an attorney to do this for you as to not make a serious mistake that could jeopardize what you are trying to do. Family law is so serious and can have such a long standing impact of people and there families that this isn't the time to pinch pennies. Hire a lawyer that will work hard for you and who will keep you informed and who will offer their services to you at a competitive price. The first step is to claim your free consultation and you can do that by giving the Law Office of Chad Zubi a call.
Chad Zubi Houston Family and Criminal Law Attorney.