California Recording Laws

California Recording Law Summary:

California recording law stipulates that it is a two-party consent state. In California, it is a criminal offense to use any device to record communications, whether they’re wire, oral or electronic, without the consent of everyone taking part in the communication. This means that in California you are not legally allowed to record a conversation you are taking part in unless all parties are in agreement. However, one exception allows that if a conversation taking place in public, within government proceedings, or under conditions where one could be easily overheard is recorded, this cannot be punished under California’s eavesdropping statute. Cal. Penal Code § 632.

Due to California’s heavy involvement with the entertainment industry, the state also has some unique laws pertaining to celebrities and paparazzi. These laws forbid trespassing for the purpose of taking photos or making audio recordings of people participating in “personal or familial activity”. Cal. Civil Code § 1708.8. The state’s vehicle code also prohibits anyone from following other drivers at close distances or behaving recklessly while driving with the intent to take photos, video, or record audio of another person for profit. Cal. Veh. Code § 40008.

Personal Conversations:

California state law is intended to punish the recording of conversations where all contributing parties have not given consent, but does not forbid such recordings in instances where the communication happened in a public place, during government proceedings, or in a situation where one could be easily overheard by others.

You may not record conversations without the consent of everyone taking part.

California Video Recording Law

In California, it is illegal for anyone to invade a person’s privacy while the person concerned is inside a bedroom, bathroom, changing room, fitting room, dressing room, or tanning booth or in any place where he or she has a reasonable expectation of privacy by looking through a hole or opening or viewing using a concealed or unconcealed instrument (e.g., camera, camcorder, unmanned aircraft system, etc.). For example, if you are sharing an apartment with another person, it is illegal to install a camera for the purpose of recording your roommate while he or she is in the bathroom or bedroom. Cal. Penal Code § 647(j)(1),(3)

Also, it is illegal for a person to use any electronic means (e.g., camcorder, camera, etc.) to record or photograph under or through the clothing being worn by an identifiable person without the consent or knowledge of the person concerned. Cal. Penal Code § 647(j)(2)


Cal. Penal Code §§ 631, 632: In California. the first arrest for eavesdropping or wiretapping is subject to a fine of up to $2,500, or a jail sentence lasting no longer than a year. Further offenses are subject to a fine of $10,000 at most or imprisonment for up to a year.

Cal. Penal Code § 637: Sharing the details of intercepted phone communications can be subject to fines of up to $5,000 and one year in jail.

Cal. Penal Code § 19: Failure to comply with the state’s hidden camera statute is a misdemeanor punishable by as much as a year in jail and fines of up to $1,000.

Cal. Veh. Code § 40008(a): California’s vehicle code punishes penalties with up to a year in jail and fines reaching a maximum of $2,500.

Cal. Penal Code § 647(k)(1) Violating California’s video recording laws may lead to punishment by imprisonment not exceeding 1 year in the county jail or by a fine of not more than $2000, or by both fine and imprisonment.

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