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Is it legal for a patient to record the conversation at a Dr. appt to help understand the medical jargon latr at home via google

Arroyo Grande, CA |

If say a cell phone was used and placed on the doctors desk right in front of him as he was sitting there, but was never asked. Again the intention of the recording was for knowledge, as say a college student records a lecture. Or would this be illegal due to the wire-tapping act. What if it caught the Doctor being unethical to the patient and staff during this appointment.

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Attorney answers 4

Best Answer

If the conversation was considered confidential then recording it without the consent of all involved could be considered a criminal act. Placing the phone where the doctor could see it is not the same as getting his consent. He would have had to know that the phone was being used to record him.
If you want to record it for your own personal use later, that is probably not going to result in anything. But if you try and use it against the doctor, you could be charged with illegal recording.
Because you mention something unethical, I recommend you consult with an attorney before doing anything with the recording.


Why not just ask for permission?

California Penal Code makes it a crime to record in person or electronic conversation if it is a confidential communication. If you don't ask permission of all those being recorded you are breaking the law. If they did something "unethical" and you used it you would be admitting to criminal activity and subject yourself to prosecution.

This is for general information only. Nothing in this information should be construed as creating an attorney-client relationship nor shall any of this information be construed as providing legal advice. Laws change over time and differ from state to state. These answers are based on California Law.Applicability of the legal principles discussed may differ substantially in individual situations. You should not act upon the information presented herein without consulting an attorney about your particular situation. No attorney-client relationship is established.


It's illegal to record the conversation without the doctor's permission. So just ask, or at least make it open and obvious that you are recording the conversation.


California law requires that you obtain consent prior to recording a "confidential communication." See, California Penal Code, Section 632.

"Confidential Communications" are conversations in which one of the parties has an objectively reasonable expectation that no one is listening in or overhearing the conversation. See, Flanagan v. Flanagan (2002) 27 Cal.4th 766.

Based on this definition, a communication made in a public place can also be considered a "confidential communication" so it's always best practice to obtain consent prior to recording.

California Penal Code, Section 637.2 states that a violation of law could result in pretty severe penalties: the greater of $5,000 or 3x actual damages. This is true of each violation so recording 5 confidential communications without consent could result in a minimum of $25,000 in damages.

This information is not legal advice, does not create an attorney-client relationship, and is intended for general informational purposes only. Said information is given in the context of California law.



Right on for this in depth description and not just saying get a lawyer. Thank you very much. I'd like to make this the best answer for the question, however the website wont let me change it as I made that choice a couple days ago before your answer was submitted. But thank you very much again!

Allister Rex Liao

Allister Rex Liao


Not a problem! I appreciate that you took the time to leave this comment. As an additional bit of information: There are criminal penalties that can also stem from an illegal recording. Take a look at California Penal Code, Sections 630 et seq. - If convicted, a first offense would result in a fine not exceeding $2,500 or imprisonment in county jail not exceeding one year. See, California Penal Code, Sections 632, 632.5, 632.6, 632.7, 634, 635. - Subsequent convictions would result in a fine not exceeding $10,000 and/or imprisonment in county or state jail not exceeding one year. See, California Penal Code, Sections 632, 632.5, 632.6, 632.7, 634, 635. Thanks to your question, I went ahead and wrote a Legal Guide on this issue, since I believe many California residents have the same question:

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