One party can consent to the recording of a wire, electronic or oral communication. S.C. Code Ann. §§ 17-30-20, 17-30-30. It is a felony for a third party to do so. Under the statute, consent is not required for the taping of a non-electronic communication uttered by a person who does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in that communication. See definition of “oral communication,” S.C. Code Ann. § 17-30-15.
Anyone whose communication has been unlawfully intercepted can recover actual damages in the amount of $500 per day of violation or $25,000, whichever is greater, and also may recover punitive damages, litigation costs, and attorney fees. S.C. Code Ann. § 17-30-135.
Another South Carolina statute makes it a misdemeanor to eavesdrop or be a “Peeping Tom” on the premises of another. S.C. Code Ann. § 16-17-470. The term “Peeping Tom” includes using video or audio equipment to invade the privacy of others. However, the statute does not apply to bona fide newsgathering activities. S.C. Code Ann. § 16-17-470(E)(5).
An intermediate appellate court held that the “Peeping Tom” statute was not applicable to newspaper reporters who attempted to overhear city council proceedings during a closed executive session because the reporters were on public property—not the premises of another—and did nothing “to enable them to overhear what was going on in the executive session other than to wait in the place provided as a waiting room for reporters and other members of the public.” Neither the overhearing nor the publication of anything overheard violated the South Carolina statute. Herald Publishing Co. v. Barnwell, 351 S.E.2d 878 (S.C. App. 1986).