Legal Question in Entertainment Law in California

Is it legal to record phone conversations on my phone of my minor child?

I have a 15 year old son that we (his parents) were concerned about some of his activities. In response to my sonís lack of cooperation we decided to put a recorder on our phones. The knowledge of the phone conversations being recorded was revealed after the first recordings and the word spread quickly among all his buddies. After that my son and/or the people he was talking to assumed that the phone calls were being recorded (this was even stated on several of the phone calls). Some of the information that we gleaned from these recordings was very disturbing. It seems there were illegal activities going on, that an adult was aware of and allowed it, as well as in some instances facilitated it. We are considering pressing charges for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

My question is regarding the legality of the tapes. Most of the information that we are so upset about was acquired after it was known that we were recording calls. Can the information from these tapes be used to press charges against the adult for contributing to the delinquency of a minor? Can we be charged with anything because of the recordings? It was our minor childís phone calls and it was at our home on our phone?

Asked on 3/23/05, 6:26 pm

4 Answers from Attorneys

Philip Iadevaia Law Offices of Philip A. Iadevaia

Re: Is it legal to record phone conversations on my phone of my minor child?

It is illegal to record someone's phone conversations without their knowledge. This is a direct statutory violation for which damages may be sought (you may be charged), as well as a bar to the admission of any evidence that may be contained in the recordings. On the issue of knowledge of the recording device, I need something more specific in the way of who knew about the recording device, how they knew and whether or not they acknowledged knowing of the recording on any tapes. Then, arguably, it may be said that the subjects ''waived'' their expectation of privacy such that the evidence may be admitted against them. Call me if you need more help. (310) 806-9237. Good Luck, --Phil

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Answered on 3/23/05, 6:35 pm
Christopher M. Brainard, Esq. C. M. Brainard & Associates - (310) 266-4115

Re: Is it legal to record phone conversations on my phone of my minor child?

Nope, you can't do that. Taping is illegal. If you expressly advised them then it is different sometimes, but innuendo, etc., may not be enough. I don't know how serious the criminal activity is or how reliable the information is given you believe they knew you were taping etc. The evidence is likely inadmissable, but it may be. However, I do see liability exposure to you based on that taping -- an attorney would likely take the case against you based on those tapes given the clear statutory prohibition of what you did. Confront your child directly and fix your problems at home if possible.

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Answered on 3/23/05, 7:49 pm
Keith E. Cooper Keith E. Cooper, Esq.

Re: Is it legal to record phone conversations on my phone of my minor child?

This is not an "Entertainment/Sports Law" question. This falls within Communications Law or Criminal Law. That said, here is some basic information, which should not be construed as legal advice (you need to hire a lawyer to get legal advice). Much of this information is printed in the front pages of your telephone directory:

It is against federal communications law to tape telephone conversations without the knowledge and consent of all parties to the call. You can give knowledge of the taping by (as most customer service centers do) giving verbal notice at the beginning of the call or by having a beep sound every 8 seconds (which most telephone recording devices automatically generate). If the device you used generated a beep tone, then your recording was legal. As an alternative, in your case, if your son or someone else acknowledged at the beginning of the call (on the tape) that it was being recorded, and then continued the call, then it might be said that they consented to the recording (but this would be for a judge to decide).

Some courts have said that minor children do not have an expectation of privacy in their parents homes, and parents have not only a right but a responsibility to control their children, so it could be argued that you have the right to consent to the taping on behalf of your son--that doesn't protect you against being prosecuted by the other parties, however.

I would strongly advise you to consult with a local attorney who practices criminal law or communications law before you do anything with the tapes.

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Answered on 4/05/05, 6:59 pm
David Tuttelman Law Office of David M. Tuttelman

Re: Is it legal to record phone conversations on my phone of my minor child?

I agree with the prior attorney responses. Your initial recording of the calls was clearly illegal. Penal Code section 632 makes it a felony offense to record a telephone conversation without the consent of the parties to the call. Civil liability exists to doing this as well. See, Civil Code section 1708.8.

The statute exempts the calls you recorded after you claimed your son's friends knew their calls to your son were being recorded. However, as one attorney noted, it would be a question of fact whether this knowledge you allege would be sufficient to take the calls out of the statute.

Probably the best strategy for dealing with your son's questionable activities is to knock off the spying and rely on the old tried and true method of improving your relationship with him and again gaining his trust.

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Answered on 3/28/05, 5:31 pm

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