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Can I Record Phone Conversations?

During the past several years, we've received an increasing number of requests from people who ask if they can record a person's phone conversations.

We advise the callers that they must first understand the law if they plan to record telephone calls or in-person conversations (including recording video that captures sound). We further inform them that they should be aware that there are federal and state wiretapping laws which can limit their ability to do so. These laws not only expose them to the risk of criminal prosecution, but also potentially give an injured party a civil claim for money damages against them.

Federal law permits recording telephone calls and in-person conversations with the consent of at least one of the parties. See 18 U.S.C. 2511(2) (d). This is called a "one-party consent" law. Under a one-party consent law, you can record a phone call or conversation so long as you are a party to the conversation. Furthermore, if you're not a party to the conversation, a "one-party consent" law will allow you to record the conversation or phone call so long as your source consents and has full knowledge that the communication will be recorded.

Regardless of whether federal or state law governs the situation, it is almost always illegal to record a phone call or private conversation to which you are not a party, do not have consent from at least one party, and could not naturally overhear. In addition, federal and many state laws do not permit you to surreptitiously place a listening device ("bug") or recording device on a person or telephone, or in a home, office or restaurant to clandestinely record a conversation between two individuals who have not consented.

A person can almost always record conversations in public areas, because the courts say there's no "expectation of privacy" in those places. Whether or not you are a party to the conversation, if it's out there in public, you may be allowed to tape it.

California Law: Invasion of Privacy Act

Penal Code § 632, enacted under the California Invasion of Privacy Act, makes it illegal for an individual to monitor or record a "confidential communication" whether the communication is carried on among the parties in the presence of one another or by means of a telegraph, telephone, or other device. California is known as a "two-party" state, which means that recordings are not allowed unless all parties to the conversation consent to the recording.


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Sunset Blvd. Investigations, Inc. is always watching out for you. Please feel free to call us with your concerns. SBI is there for you!

Disclaimer: This blog is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this blog should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. We strongly recommend that people contact an attorney for legal advice relative to this specific area of expertise in the law.

Sunset Blvd. Investigations Memberships
Sunset Blvd. Investigations, Inc. - Los Angeles Private Investigators
Open: | Weekends available by appointment
714 W Olympic Blvd, Suite 933 Los Angeles, CA 90015. View Map
Phone (LA Office): (888) 639-4761 | Local Phone: (213) 745-4080.
Newport Beach Office: 220 Newport Center Dr #11-215, Newport Beach, CA 92660 - View Map
Phone (Newport Beach): (949) 438-2735
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