Eavesdropping Or Recording Or Listening To A Conversation
Penal Code Section 632
This comes up a lot both civilly and criminally. It has to do with whether or not a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. So, if someone’s recording a phone call or putting a tape recorder somewhere and then they try to use that information — or even if they just do it — technically, that can be a violation of Penal Code Section 632 and they could be facing a felony charge. I recently had a case in Downtown Los Angeles. It ultimately ended up getting dismissed, but my client had secretly recorded his boss and it was a government agency, so they were very concerned and they got the police involved. CHP did an investigation and they talked to my client and I got the recording and ultimately, the argument that won the day and the judge ended up dismissing the case was that the conversation that was being had really didn’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy. It was right in the middle of about a hundred cubicles of people who were talking loudly and they weren’t even talking about anything secret or business-related. They were talking about some vacation or something like that. So, ultimately, the judge dismissed it and realized this is just a government agency trying to force my client out and trying to use the criminal courts to do so which is obviously very inappropriate. It was nice that his case was dismissed.
But, for those people who are facing these invasion of privacy, eavesdropping and recording a conversation charges, you need to get a good criminal defense lawyer. I’ve been doing this a long time. I have you come in. We sit down. We go over the details of what happened. I encourage you to be honest with me and also be thorough with me. Don’t leave anything out. Once I have all the information then I can let you know — whether the spirit of the eavesdropping, Penal Code section and the spirit of the legislative act that permitted that Penal Code to prosecute people criminally — whether that’s being violated or not on your case, and sometimes it’s clearly being violated and we’re going to have to do damage control. Other times, it’s clearly not being violated and the prosecutors and law enforcement have gone too far and we’re going to need to fight the case to get the result that we need.
Then of course, there’s those gray area cases where it’s not really clear whether it’s been violated and we have to use our common sense and make the right arguments. There’s something that we’re trying to protect against. We’re trying to protect people’s privacy. We’re trying to protect people from being manipulated from Big Brother watching. So, all these things are concerned and why we have that Penal Code section. If this prosecution related to you or a loved one is not fostering one of those tenants related to why we have an eavesdropping Penal Code section and are not allowed to record people and why people are entitled to their privacy rights under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, if that’s not really being violated or the spirit of that is not being violated, then the bottom line is you shouldn’t even be charged with a crime. If somebody is mad that you did something, they can sue you civilly. If they feel they’ve lost some sort of money or some sort of standing in the community or some sort of business relationship, take that case to civil court. We don’t need it in criminal court though.
So, I obviously need to see what happened and sometimes we look at what happed and then we realize this is a mistake. You did something wrong and you are being prosecuted permissibly under the criminal umbrella, but let’s see what we can do to get you out from under the criminal umbrella and let’s see what we can do to put you back in the position you were before you were arrested – before you had to post a bail and get this Penal Code Section 632 eavesdropping charge off of you. There’s all sorts of different ways to do that, but obviously, that’s going to depend on a number of factors, like what you did, what your criminal record looks like, what harm occurred? Maybe there was no harm that occurred whatsoever. So, once we get this information then we can put together the plan to get you out of the criminal justice system as fast as possible.