A victim who has been recorded without consent may bring a civil action for eavesdropping under the California Penal Code. There is some disagreement concerning whether the recording of sexual activity, without accompanying conversation, constitutes a “communication” under the statute. A person who records sexual activity without the consent of the parties engaged in the activity may also be criminally charged with eavesdropping.
b. Text of the Statute
“The Legislature hereby declares that advances in science and technology have led to the development of new devices and techniques for the purpose of eavesdropping upon private communications and that the invasion of privacy resulting from the continual and increasing use of such devices and techniques has created a serious threat to the free exercise of personal liberties and cannot be tolerated in a free and civilized society. The Legislature by this chapter intends to protect the right of privacy of the people of this state.
The Legislature recognizes that law enforcement agencies have a legitimate need to employ modern listening devices and techniques in the investigation of criminal conduct and the apprehension of lawbreakers. Therefore, it is not the intent of the Legislature to place greater restraints on the use of listening devices and techniques by law enforcement agencies than existed prior to the effective date of this chapter.”1
Criminal Recording of Confidential Information:
“(a) Every person who, intentionally and without the consent of all parties to a confidential communication, by means of any electronic amplifying or recording device, eavesdrops upon or records the confidential communication, whether the communication is carried on among the parties in the presence of one another or by means of a telegraph, telephone, or other device, except a radio, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500), or imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year, or in the state prison, or by both that fine and imprisonment. If the person has previously been convicted of a violation of this section or Section 631, 632.5, 632.6, 632.7, or 636, the person shall be punished by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000), by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year, or in the state prison, or by both that fine and imprisonment.”2
Civil action by person injured; injunction:
“(a) Any person who has been injured by a violation of this chapter [Title 15, Chapter 1.5—Invasion of Privacy] may bring an action against the person who committed the violation for the greater of the following amounts:
(1) Five thousand dollars ($5,000).
(2) Three times the amount of actual damages, if any, sustained by the plaintiff.
(b) Any person may, in accordance with Chapter 3 (commencing with Section 525) of Title 7 of Part 2 of the Code of Civil Procedure, bring an action to enjoin and restrain any violation of this chapter, and may in the same action seek damages as provided by subdivision (a).
(c) It is not a necessary prerequisite to an action pursuant to this section that the plaintiff has suffered, or be threatened with, actual damages.”3
Research is ongoing. For factually relevant cases, please see "Eavesdropping" in the California criminal section.