California Call Recording Law

Below is a section of the California State Statutes that we believe apply to recording phone conversations. This information is not intended as a substitute for legal counsel.

From the California State Code

Cal. Penal Code §§ 631, 632: It is a crime in California to intercept or eavesdrop upon any confidential communication, including a telephone call or wire communication, without the consent of all parties.

It is also a crime to disclose information obtained from such an interception. A first offense is punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and imprisonment for no more than one year. Subsequent offenses carry a maximum fine of $10,000 and jail sentence of up to one year.

Eavesdropping upon or recording a conversation, whether by telephone (including cordless or cellular telephone) or in person, that a person would reasonably expect to be confined to the parties present, carries the same penalty as intercepting telephone or wire communications.

Conversations occurring at any public gathering that one should expect to be overheard, including any legislative, judicial or executive proceeding open to the public, are not covered by the law.

An appellate court has ruled that using a hidden video camera violates the statute. California v. Gibbons, 215 Cal. App. 3d 1204 (1989). However, a television network that used a hidden camera to videotape a conversation that took place at a business lunch meeting on a crowded outdoor patio of a public restaurant that did not include "secret" information did not violate the Penal Code's prohibition against eavesdropping because it was not a "confidential communication." Wilkins v. NBC, Inc., 71 Cal. App. 4th 1066 (1999).

Anyone injured by a violation of the wiretapping laws can recover civil damages of $5,000 or three times actual damages, whichever is greater. Cal. Penal Code § 637.2(a). A civil action for invasion of privacy also may be brought against the person who committed the violation. Cal. Penal Code § 637.2.

Important Notice

It is always best to talk with an attorney if you have questions about the legal implications of recording calls in your state. We hope this information will serve as a general guide, and is not intended to substitute for expert legal counsel.

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