What is Eavesdropping in California


It’s easier than ever to record the actions of other people. Most of us have a cell phones tucked into our pockets with the technology needed to capture a video with outstanding visual and audio quality.

As tempting as it is to use your phone to record the actions and conversations of others, if you live in California, giving in to the temptation could result in you facing criminal charges.

California has extremely strict eavesdropping laws. However, the fact that nearly all of us are currently able to pull out our phones to start recording all kinds of stuff, it’s imperative that you know all about eavesdropping in California so that you don’t have to worry about accidentally doing something that could result in you being charged with eavesdropping.

The issue of eavesdropping in California is addressed in Penal Code 632 PC. Based on how the 632 PC is currently written, a conviction of eavesdropping requires:

  • That you knew you were eavesdropping/recording someone and did so intentionally
  • You deliberately used an electronic device to capture the conversation.
  • The person you were recording was reasonable in assuming that the conversation was private and confidential.

At no point did you attempt to gain the other party’s consent, nor that the other party expressly told you not to record the conversation.

Eavesdropping is one of California’s wobbler offenses. The exact circumstances of each case determine if the prosecution pursued a felony or misdemeanor charge. In addition to considering the fact surrounding your case, they will also likely look at your criminal history before they decide to charge you with a misdemeanor or a felony.

If you’re convicted of misdemeanor eavesdropping in California, you can be sentenced to twelve months in a county jail and/or hit with a fine as large as $2,500.

If you’re convicted of felony eavesdropping in California, you can be sentenced to three years in a state prison jail and/or hit with a fine as large as $2,500.

It’s important to understand that there is a huge difference between recording something and accidentally catching bits of another person’s conversation and deliberately setting out to record someone. You won’t get in trouble if you accidentally make a recording.