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Recording Without Consent is Illegal in California

As technology continues to advance and audio recording systems become sleeker and more discrete, many individuals have rightfully feared the possibility of someone recording a confidential conversation.

In California, it is actually illegal for people to record a private/confidential conversation or telephone call without one's consent. Recording someone without the others' knowledge is an act that violates Penal Code 632—also known as PC632.

PC632 makes certain types of eavesdropping a California crime. That being said, there are many exceptions to PC632 that people should be aware of. For instance, a person is able to legally record communications that are made in a “public gathering”.

Additionally, law enforcement is exempt from the PC632 when police officers and certain private citizens are recording conversations in order to gather criminal evidence in support of an offense. This exception is made in hopes of protecting the public's interest when tracking down criminals or mounting a criminal case.

Wobbler Offense

Violations of PC632 is considered a wobbler offense because these violations can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. This decision is made at the prosecutor's discretion, so it is highly advised that people experiencing such allegations find an experienced legal defense.

Misdemeanor Cases

If the prosecutor successfully charges the crime as a misdemeanor, these are the following maximum penalties:

  • Imprisonment in county jail for up to one year
  • Fine of up to $2,500

Felony Cases

If the prosecutor successfully charges the crime as a felony, these are the following maximum penalties:

  • A maximum of 3 years in state prison
  • Fine of up to $2,500

Under California Law, What is Considered Eavesdropping?

California defines an action of eavesdropping by creating prerequisites that an action must fulfill. In other words, if an action satisfies all the requirements, then it is considered eavesdropping in the California court of law.

The act to record other persons' conversations must be intentional. If it is by accident, then it is not considered eavesdropping. Moreover, the act of recording must take place without the consent of the speaker(s). Lastly, the conversation and the subject matter must be confidential.

When recording, the act must involve the use of an electronic amplifying or recording device. Conversations are confidential when circumstances can reasonably indicate that at least one party of the conversation intends for no one extraneous to overhear.

Allegations and cases of illegal eavesdropping is ultimately something to take very seriously, if charged as a felony, the defendant can face years in federal prison in addition to some hefty fines. People involved in eavesdropping cases are highly advised to seek legal counsel.

The right lawyer can plan the best steps for each unique case. If someone is in the process of litigating a PC632 case, finding the right lawyer can make sure the violation is not treated as a felony case.

This is a legal blog. It is not intended to be used as legal advice.

For further information please contact the law offices of attorney Ramona Kennedy.

Ramona Kennedy (Attorney) received her Jurisprudence Doctorate in America and is a licensed attorney in California (USA). Ramona Kennedy is a member of American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). Ramona Kennedy is fluent in English and Farsi (reading & writing) & speaks Azeri Turkish.

It is advisable to seek legal guidance from our office today as we strive to help guide you with your specific case. 

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