As we have seen, recording conversations
can jeopardize peoples reputations, livelihood and even their freedom. In the
latest recording, Stephen Collins from 7th
Heaven, admits to child molestation and now faces serious consequences. Can
this be held against him in a court of law? Also recently, Don Sterling lost
his Clippers Empire over a recorded racist rant to his mistress. Are these
recordings legally admissible in court? Is it legal to do this to people? What
about recording the police? It is important to know your rights as a patient,
grower and/or collective manager.
Expectation of privacy can be the most important
factor that the court will use in determining admissibility. In Stephen Collins’ case, the statements were made
during a therapy session. Therefore, he had the expectation of privacy
associated with the therapist-patient privilege (the same goes with doctors,
lawyers, psychologists, etc.), and any recording conducted by the therapist
would be unethical, illegal and inadmissible. The caveat there, though, is that
the expectation of privacy diminishes when a third party is present. Here,
Collins’ wife attended the session and actually conducted the recording. Although
she is a third party, the question arises whether the recording constituted
“confidential marital communications” which is also inadmissible in California
court. Although Collins perhaps had a legitimate expectation of privacy,
California law allows secret recordings if they’re done in an effort to gather
evidence for a criminal case—which it seems like is the case here.
Ultimately it will be up to a
judge to decide the hotly contested issue of admissibility here, but my money
is on the recording coming in. California law states that anything relevant is
admissible. This basically tells a judge to find a way to get it in!
What about cases where no crime is
committed, such as Donald Sterling’s racist rant? In Donald Sterling’s case, the recording of his racist
statements is likely inadmissible in a California civil suit. In fact, under
California Law it is illegal to record a conversation, in person or
telephonically, without the consent of all parties involved. Then, why did Donald
Sterling lose the Clippers? The NBA is a private organization and has its own
practices and regulations, which means it can do whatever necessary to benefit
its interests. Therefore, it is within the NBA’s board members’ power to oust
Sterling if they felt it best for the organization.
Is it admissible if recorded in a public
place? Even if several parties are
present, the recording may not be admissible if the person being recorded has
an “objectively reasonable expectation that no one is listening or overhearing
the conversation.” Meaning, in a public setting, if the recorded party thinks
that no one can listen in, then it may be inadmissible in court, depending on
the factual circumstances.
Are recordings by law enforcement legal?
In California, on-duty police
officers may legally record conversations and interactions with the public. Since
these communications are recorded by public officials (cops), they can become
public record. That is why you see some of celebrities exposed for being
unpleasant, as was the case with Mel Gibson shouting anti-Semitic remarks at a
Can we record encounters with law enforcement? Yes, but the officer must be on duty and the recording
cannot interfere with their investigations or duties. You should record police
officers when safe and possible, to assure they conduct themselves in a
professional manner and don’t take advantage of their authority.
MMJ Note: Cannabusinesses
should have video cameras set up to protect themselves from the police, if ever
raided. It would also behoove those in the delivery business to have hidden
recording devices in the transport vehicles, if stopped by the police. Catching
any kind of misconduct by the police may help in a case against you or your
Contact Meital Manzuri for
further help. Meital Manzuri is a Los Angeles-based criminal defense attorney,
speaker and consultant for patients, collectives and dispensaries. If you have
questions about medical cannabis or any other criminal defense matters, she can
be contacted via phone at (310) 601-3140 or www.Manzurilaw.com.
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