Following your Orange County car crash or other personal injury accident, you will soon learn that your ability to recover full compensation for your injuries and expenses will depend in large part on your ability to show that another person is responsible for causing the accident or incident that resulted in your injuries. Absent a confession or admission of fault, this task can only be completed through the use of evidence and perhaps the testimony of one or more witnesses.
Suppose, however, that while out at a restaurant you see the person you believed caused your injuries in a secluded corner talking on his or her phone. He or she is obviously talking about the crash or accident and begins to make statements admitting fault and responsibility to the person to whom he or she is talking. Before you pull out your smartphone and begin recording the conversation, take time to consider whether your intended course of action might be criminal.
Eavesdropping in California
When a person utilizes an electronic recording device such as a digital recorder, a digital camcorder, a smartphone, or another similar device to record a confidential conversation of another without the consent of every party to the conversation, that person has committed the crime of eavesdropping. Not only does this subject you to potential civil and criminal fines, but you could also be incarcerated for up to one year. Obtaining a confession or admission of guilt through illegal means can cause the court hearing your personal injury case to exclude such confession from consideration at trial.
Whether a conversation is “confidential” or not depends on the specific facts present at the time the communication was made. Key to making this determination is whether the parties appeared to have intended that their conversation be private and confidential. While speaking at a public restaurant at a table may not indicate an intention for a communication to remain private, going to a secluded area of that same restaurant and deliberately communicating as far away from others as possible may lead a court to a different conclusion.
Does This Mean I Can Never Record an Admission or Confession?
California’s eavesdropping law does not prevent you, for example, from electronically recording a statement the at-fault party makes to you if the at-fault party gives you permission to record his or her statement. Nor does the law prevent you from making a written record of statements you overhear the at-fault party make in a public setting.
If you or a loved one have been injured in a California personal injury accident, speak with us at Case Barnett Law about your situation as well as evidence that might potentially be available for you to use in your quest for compensation. Call us at (949) 861-2990, or reach out to us using our online contact form.