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California Supreme Court Requires All-Party Consent to Record Phone Calls

On April 1, 2021, California’s Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the state’s prohibition on recording calls without consent applies to parties on the call and not just third-party eavesdroppers. Writing for the Court, Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye wrote that California’s penal code “prohibits parties as well as nonparties from intentionally recording a communication transmitted between a cellular or cordless phone and another device without the consent of all parties to the communication.”

The California Supreme Court’s decision overturned a state Court of Appeal decision, which held that only nonparties to the call are prohibited from recording the call. According to the Court of Appeal, because the company that made the recording was a party to the call, it had not violated California law.

The California Supreme Court’s ruling is in keeping with the state’s focus on individual privacy rights and protections. The Court stated that “[r]ecording a communication without the speaker’s consent can implicate significant privacy concerns, regardless of whether a party or someone else is performing the recording.”

The case is remanded back to the Court of Appeal for further proceedings to review whether the “beep” at the start of the call provided sufficient notice that the conversation was being recorded, which is the issue that was under appeal from the trial court.

Read the Court’s full opinion.

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