It’s well known that you aren’t legally allowed to record a conversation with another person without first getting their consent. That’s why so many businesses have an automated message that comes on as soon as you call that informs you know that the call may be recorded. The business wants a record of everything said, and they want you to know that they could be recording.
Failing to make it clear to everyone that a confidential conversation is being recorded makes you guilty of eavesdropping in California.
But what about the police? Anyone who has spent any time live streaming live court cases knows that there are many instances when the police have used all sorts of footage they have recorded to help secure a conviction. Examples of this include:
- Bodycam footage of routine traffic stops ultimately revealed other crimes.
- Footage of riots and protests that the police recorded
- Private conversations that took place in the police stations where it’s obvious the people involved didn’t know that they were being recorded
- Phone calls prisoners made.
- Undercover video surveillance
Most people don’t question undercover video surveillance because they assume that the police had a warrant that allowed them to set up the surveillance system. But when it comes to everything else, they often think the police are making illegal recordings.
The answer is that in California, the police can create all sorts of recordings and use them to build a case against you. While they are allowed to make the recordings, there are some stipulations. First, they must be officially working. They must be using official police equipment.
The general rule of thumb regarding having anything to do with the police is that you should assume that you will be recorded and that these recordings can be used against you. Therefore, be mindful of what you say when you are near a police officer or in a police station/courthouse. This is especially true if you are simply sitting in a waiting area or have been left alone or with a few close family members in an interrogation room.
Not only should you assume that you are being recorded, but you should also plan on all of the recording equipment the police use being high quality. When the police watch the footage, they will catch any facial expressions you make, notes you write, and even whispered conversations you have.