Did you know that it is against the law to record someone else’s conversations in the State of California? It makes sense; each private citizen should have an inherent right to privacy, a freedom outlined in the California Constitution. With that in mind, one might think that a secretly recorded conversation could not be used against a person as incriminating evidence. However, one would be wrong in thinking that to be the case.
A little known law approved by voters in 1982 allows all “relevant evidence” to be introduced in any criminal trial or pretrial hearing, The San Francisco Chronicle reports. It may come as little surprise that prosecutors sponsored the measure to change privacy laws written into the California Constitution.
Naturally, the measure allowing prosecutors to introduce evidence that had been obtained in violation of state law has been challenged several times since 1982. However, the California Supreme Court has repeatedly let prosecutors introduce evidence that had been obtained in violation of state law.
Secretly Recorded Conversations Admissible
In 1985, the State’s highest court upheld – 4-3 – the will of the voters to narrow criminal defendant’s rights, according to the article. On December 5, 2019, the Supreme Court once again upheld the provision.
The measure, passed by voters with a 56 percent majority in 1982 allowing prosecutors to use secretly recorded conversations, included several other provisions that impacted the rights of criminal defendants. Proposition 8 or The Victims’ Bill of Rights restricted the rights of convicts and those facing criminal charges. It also extended the rights of victims by allowing such individuals to testify at parole and sentencing hearings. Proposition 8 also:
- Increased sentence lengths for specific crimes.
- Narrowed the insanity defense.
- Permitted prosecutors to introduce evidence that had been obtained in violation of state law.
“The court can interpret Proposition 8 narrowly or broadly, but the genie’s out of the jar,” said George Nicholson, the 1982 Republican candidate for attorney general and principal draftsman of the initiative. “The public knows it can play a role in criminal justice.”
Orange County Attorney at Law
At Law Office of Ronald G. Brower, we have a long history of successfully advocating for criminal defendants. If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, you will be pleased to know that Attorney Brower has more than three decades of experience practicing law in California. Please contact our office today for assistance.