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Understanding California’s Complicated Eavesdropping Laws

In the state of California, eavesdropping laws make it illegal to record confidential conversations such as private conversations and phone calls, unless both parties have consented to the taping. Of course, as is true of most legal statutes, there are exceptions. Read on to learn about some of the complexities of this crime and then contact Law Office of Michael L. Fell at (949) 585-9055 if you need a free legal consultation for this or another alleged crime.

There Are Many Situations in Which a Member of the Public Can Legally Record a Conversation without Consent

Note that it is only illegal to record a confidential conversation or private conversation. If a party is communicating in a public gathering, they can be recorded without their permission. The police (and in some cases private citizens) are allowed to record calls without consent if they are gathering evidence of an offense.

Potentially Consequences for Breaking Eavesdropping Laws

Violating the eavesdropping laws is a wobbler offense. In short, this means that the prosecution can decide to charge it as a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the facts of the case and the criminal background of the defendant. If it is charged as a misdemeanor, the maximum punishment is up to one year in county jail and / or fines of up to $2,500.

If it is charged as a felony, the punishment is 16 months, two years, or three years in state prison and / or fines of up to $2,500. Depending on the circumstances, sentencing enhancements could result in added time.

The Prosecution Must Prove Four Elements to Make Their Case

In order for the prosecution to convict you of eavesdropping, they must prove that the four following facts are true:

  1. You intentionally taped someone – it was not an accident.
  2. You taped someone without their consent.
  3. The person you taped had reason to believe the conversation was private.
  4. You used a recording device or electronic amplifying devices to record it and / or overhear it.

It is important to remember that according to California criminal law, referring to a conversation as confidential means that at least one person reasonably believed that no one else would overhear it. For example, if a person places a recording device in the office of their boss without their bosses knowledge, this would be illegal. However, if the defendant recorded a conversation at a party in which a mixture of people were talking publicly, this would likely not qualify as eavesdropping.

We Can Help with Charges Related to Eavesdropping

It is often the case that a person charge with eavesdropping is charged with additional crimes as well. You can count on Law Office of Michael L. Fell as the best criminal defense attorney for your needs. You can reach our offices by calling (949) 585-9055 and requesting a free legal consultation.

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