Recordings in Domestic Violence Cases

We all know that in California, the unlawful recording of confidential communications is a crime. This usually means that recorded conversations in private between two parties are not admissible in court.

However, there are some exceptions to this rule, which can be very important.

First, if the communication threatens actual violence, there is an exception to Penal Code 632, allowing it to be used in a domestic violence hearing. IT does, however, require actual threats, rather than emotion abuse or manipulation.

Second, records showing abusive behavior can be used as evidence for impeachment—meaning that if the party who made the statement testifies at trial, and denies making threatening statements, the recording can be played to discredit the testimony. It is important to note that this can be done ONLY after the party who committed the abuse has testified that it did not occur or did not occur as it did in the recording.

The seminal cases on this issue are People v. Crow, and Frio v. Superior Ct., and a solid legal analysis needs to be done as to the admissibility of any records prior to use in court, as if it is done improperly, the disclosure of the recording can lead to criminal prosecution.

DISCLAIMER: All legal principles quoted are valid as of the date of writing in the State of California. However, you should NEVER base your actions on a legal article, blog, or internet story, as facts in real life are complicated. You should have your case evaluated by an attorney experienced in the area of law needed for your case. In addition, there are often exceptions and potential changes to results that occur due to facts that you may think are trivial or unimportant. This article should not be taken in any way as legal advice on your specific legal matter.

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