Wiretapping Crimes

A violation of California’s wiretap laws is an alternate felony-misdemeanor offense.

California is considered to be a “two-party consent” state for purposes of the wiretap laws in this state. Under Cal. Penal Code § 632, it is a crime to record or eavesdrop on any confidential communication, including a private conversation or telephone call, without the consent of all parties to the conversation.

Section 632 of the California Penal Code applies to “confidential communications.” In Flanagan v. Flanagan, 41 P.3d 575, 576-77, 578-82 (Cal. 2002), the court defined “confidential communications” to include any conversations in which any party has an objectively reasonable expectation that no one is listening in or overhearing the conversation.

In California v. Gibbons, 215 Cal. App. 3d 1204 (Cal Ct. App. 1989), the court found that California’s wiretap statute also applies to the use of a hidden video cameras to secretly record conversations.

Always get the consent of all parties before recording any conversation that anyone might consider to be private. If you are accused of violating California’s wiretapping law, you might be exposed to criminal penalties or a civil lawsuit for money damages.

Attorney for Wiretap Crimes in Ventura, CA

Jay Leiderman understands the limits on the ability of the Attorney General and district attorneys to apply to the superior court for authorization to intercept a wire or electronic communication.

When the government exceeds those limitations, it might result in the entire case being dismissed.

He also represents clients accused of violating California’s wiretap statute.

Call (805) 654-0200 to discuss your case.

Applications for Wiretaps in California

Under California law, until January 1, 2020, the Attorney General, a district attorney, or their designee or specified employees are allowed to apply to the superior court for authorization to intercept a wire, electronic pager, or electronic cellular telephone (commonly known as a wiretap).

California law regulates the issuance, duration, and monitoring of these wiretap orders and imposes safeguards to protect the public from unreasonable interceptions.

The law limits which crimes law enforcement may seek a wiretap. A wire or electronic communication intercept may be requested for the following types of crimes:

  • A violation of human trafficking;
  • Possession or use of a weapon of mass destruction;
  • A felony in violation of prohibitions on criminal street gangs;
  • Murder or solicitation of murder or commission of a felony involving a destructive device;
  • Importation, possession for sale, transportation or sale of controlled substances; or
  • An attempt or conspiracy to commit any of the above.

The Attorney General must prepare and submit a report each year regarding these interceptions to the California Legislature, the Judicial Council, and the Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts.

Additional Resources

Electronic Surveillance and Wiretap Course – Visit the website of California’s Attorney General to find information on an 8 hour course for law enforcement officers interested in learning about intercept and record wire communications (“wiretaps”). In order to seek authorization for or participate in wiretap operations, Penal Code Section 629.94 requires law enforcement officers to complete the course. Enrollment in the course is limited to officers involve in court-authorized state wiretap, and officers investigating aggravated kidnapping, bombings, gangs, solicitation of murder, and narcotics offenses.