In California, it’s illegal to film someone without their consent, so it’s only logical that many people wonder “can secret recordings be used in court?” Oceanside criminal lawyer Peter M. Liss says the answer is generally no, but there are some exceptions that are important to be aware of.
Eavesdropping and Wiretapping Laws in CA
While the general definition of eavesdropping involves listening to someone else’s conversation, in legal terms it refers to recording or electronically amplifying a conversation without the knowledge of all parties involved. If the process involves the use of a phone, then wiretapping laws may also be violated. These crimes are both wobblers, meaning they can be charged as felonies or misdemeanors and those accused of illegally recording someone’s conversation should immediately contact an Oceanside defense attorney.
There are some legal gray areas about whether parents can record their children without their consent by providing parental consent for the recording and these cases are always handled on a case-by-case basis depending largely on the age and maturity of the child in question.
Can Secret Recordings be Used in Court?
If a recorded conversation violates California’s wiretapping or eavesdropping laws, then it can’t be used in court. That being said, while it’s generally illegal to record conversations with others without their consent, there are exceptions. The first exception is when the victim had no expectation of privacy because they were in public. For example, those viral videos of people spouting racist rants against someone else in a pool or playground are totally legal. If someone had such a recording and it happened to include evidence of a crime, this could be legally admissible.
The second example occurs when someone is making the recording with the intention of collecting evidence against someone else in a crime involving extortion, bribery, kidnapping or a felony involving violence against someone else. This evidence can be brought to police as evidence of a crime and this is the only time where non-public secret recordings can be used in court. So, for example, when kidnappers call a victim’s family, the family could record these conversations and bring them to police without the need to disclose that they were recording the call. This could then be used in court as well.
This is why police will often record a conversation between a victim and an alleged suspect with the hope the suspect will say something incriminating. These recordings are legal and do not require warrants or warnings to the suspect because the suspect has been accused of an applicable crime.
Fighting the Use of Secret Recordings as Evidence
Like most things in the legal field, whether or not a secret recording was made in a way that qualifies it to be used as evidence is a matter of opinion -particularly when it comes to what is defined as a “public” conversation. This is why it is so important that anyone who believes there may be secret recordings being used as evidence in their case choose to work with a top Oceanside criminal defense attorney with experience helping keep this evidence from being used.
If you have been charged with a crime and believe the evidence may include a recording of a conversation you did not consent to, it is critical you call (760) 643-4050 as soon as possible to schedule a free consultation with Oceanside defense attorney Peter M. Liss.
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