Secret Audio Recordings May Lead to Professional License Discipline

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Jan 18, 2024 | 0 Comments

Special education teachers at a New York primary school were placed on administrative leave after a secret recording appeared to reveal what parents contend is verbal abuse of their children during class. In the recording, reportedly made by a recording device clipped to a student's backpack by his mother, teachers appeared to be using strong language directed at the children, including at one point saying, “My dog follows directions better.”

In situations such as this one, licensing entities (such as the New York State Education Department in this case) may investigate the alleged misconduct. The Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team can help make sure that, as a licensed professional who is under investigation, your rights are protected and respected during the process. Call us today at 888.535.3686, or use our contact form to set up a consultation to learn more about how we can help.

The Problem With Secret Recordings

While a recording made by a device planted in a classroom, office, or other workspace may yield what sounds like damning evidence of misconduct, there are a number of problems with trying to use secretly-made recordings in professional misconduct proceedings. Depending on the state, the professional license, and the procedural rules that apply, a secret recording may be challenged on the ground that it might not actually be a genuine recording of what was said by any particular person at that date and place. Voice recordings can be faked, and with AI tools readily available, there is a real danger of faked recordings being used in cases where their authenticity can't otherwise be ensured.

Another issue with a recording such as the one in this case, is that unless one of the adults in the room confirms that it's a true and accurate recording of what was said there that day, there is unlikely to be a witness who will be able to say that the recording is accurate. The child who carried the recording device in on his backpack probably didn't even know it was there; according to the news report, his mother clipped it to his bag. Typically, in cases where a recording is used, there must be someone who can testify that it is a true and accurate recording of what was said at the time the recording was made.

Secret Recordings May be Criminal

In addition, again, depending on the state, making a secret recording of someone without their knowledge or consent may be considered eavesdropping and may be treated as a crime. In New York, for example, at least one person in a recorded conversation must consent to that recording. In this case, the mother who clipped the recording device onto her son's backpack was not present when the recording was made, which means she wasn't part of any conversation that was recorded. The son was probably not aware the device was there or that it was recording. The teachers clearly were not aware.

While unlikely to result in any charges, in New York State, it is a class E felony for someone to engage in the “mechanical overhearing of a conversation,” which is defined as “the intentional overhearing or recording of a conversation” that happens “without the consent of at least one party thereto, by a person not present thereat.” The fact that the recording might be illegal could also be used to argue against its use in a disciplinary proceeding.

The Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team Can Help

If you are a licensed professional who is being investigated or disciplined by your licensing authority, don't risk your license, your livelihood, and your reputation by trying to defend yourself. Contact the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team to learn more about how we can help you protect your rights and defend your license, just as we've helped licensed professionals all across the US. Call us today at 888.535.3686, or use our contact form to set up a confidential consultation.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento has unparalleled experience fighting for the futures of his professional clients nationwide. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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