Eavesdropping – or listening to a private conversation – can be treated as a criminal offense in the state of California. Individuals accused eavesdropping could end up charged in the court of law. Convictions under California Penal Code Section 632: Eavesdropping can lead to fines and incarceration.
You don’t have to try to fight an eavesdropping charge on your own. The Simmrin Law Group can build your defense if you are accused of overhearing a conversation not meant for you. Our team of Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers can assess violations of California Penal Code Section 632: Eavesdropping today.
The Legal Definition of Eavesdropping
Most people will overhear a private conversation at some point in their lives. This action fits a general definition of “eavesdropping.” The definition of criminal eavesdropping is far more in-depth. In order to commit criminal eavesdropping:
- You Must Knowingly Listen to or Record a Discussion
- The Discussion Much be Confidential
- A Recording or Amplification Device Must Be Used
Additionally, eavesdropping only occurs if you listen in or record a conversation without the consent of one of the parties involved in the discussion. This distinction means that you should not face eavesdropping charges simply for overhearing something by accident.
Note that you could be charged with California Penal Code Section 631 PC: Wiretapping if you attempt to eavesdrop on conversations over a phone line. This charge can apply if someone intercepts:
- Landline Calls
- Cell Phone Calls
- Cordless Calls
A wiretapping conviction can be punished with up to three years of time in prison in the Los Angeles area.
An Example of Eavesdropping in Los Angeles
Eavesdropping does not involve accidentally overhearing a conversation. In fact, you should not even be charged with eavesdropping if you purposefully listen to a conversation but do not record or amplify it.
A legitimate instance of criminal eavesdropping could take place if:
Man A intentionally enters his place of business with a recording device. He moves quietly to the office of Man B, who is speaking with Man C. They are discussing a confidential business deal that Man A resents. Man A records the conversation without the knowledge of Man B or Man C, intending to use the recording to damage their careers.
Penalties for Eavesdropping in California
The court system in California may charge eavesdropping as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on your exact situation. The penalties for these charges include:
- Jail Time: 1 Year
- Fines: Up to $2,500
- Prison Time: 3 Years
- Fines: Up to $2,500
Individuals who were previously convicted of eavesdropping – or a similar crime – may have their fines increased to $10,000.
Note that you may face harsher penalties for engaging in eavesdropping as part of another criminal act. For examples, you could face domestic violence charges in Los Angeles for stalking, which often involves eavesdropping.
Possible Eavesdropping Defenses in Los Angeles
Criminal eavesdropping only occurs if someone:
- Intentionally Listens to a Conversation
- Without the Consent of All Parties in the Conversation
- While Using a Tool to Record or Amplify the Conversation
- If the Conversation is Private
A criminal defense lawyer may be able to help you address eavesdropping charges by proving you did not take one of these steps.
California also permits you to record conversation in some rare circumstances, even without the consent of the conversing individuals. For example, you may be cleared of charges under PC 632 if you are recording a conversation involving someone who is violating a protective or restraining order.
Handling an eavesdropping accusation often requires an in-depth investigation. Let us dig into your situation to determine your best options in this situation.
Dealing with Eavesdropping Accusations in California
California Penal Code Section 632: Eavesdropping clearly defines the act of criminal eavesdropping. Intentionally recording or listening to a private conversation can have serious impacts on the rest of your life. The Simmrin Law Group can help you understand the charges you’re facing and possible defenses for your situation. You can contact us for a FREE consultation to discuss your legal options right now.
Call us at (310) 997- 4688 or complete our online contact form to learn more about Penal Code Section 632 in California.