California’s state laws make it clear that a citizen’s right to privacy (at least from one another) is highly valued. In fact, it is a crime to use electronic devices to monitor or record another person’s private communication. If you have been arrested for eavesdropping in San Diego it is important to get the help of a criminal defense attorney immediately. Your future is at stake, and an attorney can help to minimize the consequences of your alleged behavior. Call the Law Office of Vikas Bajaj, APC today to request a free consultation.
Eavesdropping in San Diego
California state law prohibits citizens from breaching one another’s privacy by horning in on private conversations. While it is not a crime to simply overhear another conversation with your own two ears, it is a crime to use an electronic device to help you intentionally monitor or record another’s communication.
California Penal Code 632 PC states that it is illegal to:
- Without consent of all parties
- Use an electronic amplifying or recording device
- To eavesdrop or record
- A confidential communication.
In order to determine whether behavior violates California eavesdropping law, it is important to understand what these elements mean.
In order to be convicted of eavesdropped in violation of 632 PC, you must intentionally eavesdrop on others without their consent. Intentional behaviors are those done willfully and on purpose.
Without Consent of all Parties
Consent means that each person to the communication understands and agrees that you will be listening in and/or recording the conversation. A person is defined to mean:
- Other legal entities, and
- An individual representing an organization or government entity.
Consent must be obtained from anyone who is participating in the communication in person or remotely via telegraph, telephone, or another device. Consent cannot exist if another person is not fully aware of the consequences.
What is a confidential communication for purposes of California’s eavesdropping law? Penal Code 632 defines confidential communication to mean communication that is performed in a manner that would “reasonably indicate that any party” to that communication would expect it to be private.
Administrative proceedings open to the public or any conversations that would likely be overheard or recorded are not considered “confidential” for the purposes of eavesdropping.
Communications will generally be considered to be confidential if:
- The parties reasonably expected the contents of the communication to be private, and
- Efforts were taken to prevent others from overhearing the communication.
Penalties for Eavesdropping
Eavesdropped can be a misdemeanor or a felony in California. The charges that will be filed in a specific case will depend on the seriousness of the offense, the defendant’s history of similar behavior, and the defendant’s criminal record.
Each individual act of eavesdropping will be charged as a separate offense. This means that each count of eavesdropping will carry its own individual penalties. This can cause a criminal sentence for eavesdropping to be quite severe.
When charged as a misdemeanor, eavesdropping is punishable by:
- A maximum of 12 months in a San Diego County jail
- $2,500 in criminal fines
- Summary probation, and/or
- Community service.
When charged as a felony, eavesdropping is punishable by:
- 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in a California state prison
- $2,500 in criminal fines, and/or
- Formal probation.
Prior convictions for eavesdropping and related offenses can cause the fine for each offense to be elevated to $10,000.
Defending Allegations of Criminal Eavesdropping
Certain defenses can be used to protect yourself against the consequences of an eavesdropping conviction. These arguments help to justify, explain, or excuse your alleged behavior. When successful, these defenses will make it difficult for the state to build a strong case against you. This will make it easier to secure a favorable plea or get the charges dropped altogether.
Defenses to eavesdropping can include:
- Unintentional and/or accidental eavesdropping
- You did not use an electronic amplifying or recording device
- Authorized by police to record a conversation as part of an ongoing criminal investigation
- You did not know you were recording or amplifying a confidential communication
- The communication was not confidential, or
- The parties should not have expected their communication to be private.
Can I Eavesdrop to Gather Evidence in a Civil Case?
No. It is against the law to use an electronic amplifying or recording device to monitor or record a private conversation. This extends to actions taken to gather evidence in a civil case. If it is discovered that you are eavesdropping in a civil matter, the evidence you have gathered unlawfully will be excluded and the other party will have the right to demand damages for invasion of privacy.
Fighting Criminal Charges for Eavesdropping in San Diego
Have you been accused of unlawfully eavesdropping on a private communication? Contact San Diego criminal defense attorney Vikas Bajaj for help fighting any criminal charges that are filed by the state. Each count of eavesdropping carries its own criminal penalties, which can cause the potential criminal sentence for your actions to be quite severe.
For the past 16 years, Vikas Bajaj has successfully defended clients against all criminal charges, including those for eavesdropping. His aggressive approach makes it difficult for the state to build a solid case against his clients. This often leads to favorable results for his clients. Call today to schedule a free consultation and learn more.