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The Security Camera Laws in California: What You Need to Know

security camera laws in California

Whether you own or rent a home in California or you run a small business, security cameras are an excellent tool for keeping your property safe. Before you install security cameras, you should first understand the security camera laws in California.

Security cameras can be very helpful in deterring crime, but they must be installed while following the law. If you are unsure of what the law requires, you may want to contact an attorney or consult the website of your local police department.

security camera laws in California

What are the Security Camera Laws in California?

As a business or homeowner in California, it is important to understand the security camera laws to protect yourself from any legal issues that may arise. You must install your cameras per state laws and local regulations.

Security Cameras on Your Private Property

In general, California law allows installing cameras on your property to deter crime and protect your property. But you may still need a permit from your city or county government before installing cameras on your property.

There are, however, some restrictions on where you can install cameras and how you can use the footage. You cannot place cameras in areas where people have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as bathrooms or bedrooms.

Two-Party Consent for Audio Recording

For audio recording, California is known as a “two-party” consent state – reference California Penal Code 632. This law protects private conversations from outside intrusion. This is different than states like Texas where only one person in a conversation needs to give consent. California law requires that any person being audio recorded must first give consent before being audio recorded.

California’s “two-party” consent law can apply to audio-equipped security cameras outside the home. For instance, you could be intruding on your neighbor’s privacy if your garage security camera is sensitive enough to pick up conversations from inside your neighbor’s house.

Privacy laws also apply to cameras placed inside your home. Nanny cams can create a privacy issue unless the cameras are disclosed.  Be upfront with anyone you invite to work inside your home if you have interior cameras installed.

Posting Warning Signs Around Your Property

In California, you have the right to protect your private property from outside intrusion. Placing security cameras around the outside of your home falls legally within the realm of protecting your private property. Persons walking around the outside of your home do not have an expectation of privacy. As long as your cameras do not intrude on any person’s reasonable expectation of privacy, you don’t need to post signs indicating your home is protected by video surveillance.

security cameras in the workplace

Installing Security Cameras in Your Business Place

If you’re a California business owner, you should familiarize yourself with the laws governing the installation of security cameras in your business. Having security cameras installed can improve productivity by providing your employees and customers with a sense of safety and security. But you also must be careful to protect the privacy rights of your employees.

Best Practices for Posting Security Cameras in Your Business

The following best practices will help you to avoid civil and criminal penalties when installing security cameras in your business:

  • Post signs letting employees and customers know they’re being recorded.
  • Train employees on camera locations and what to do if they feel their privacy is being violated.
  • Keep camera footage secure, and only allow authorized personnel to access it.
  • Don’t place cameras in areas where people have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as bathrooms or locker rooms.

Requirements when Installing Security Cameras in Your California Business

Employers must not install security cameras in dressing rooms, restrooms, and other clothes-changing areas – reference California Labor Code Section 435(a).

Under the Federal National Labor Relations Act, employers are prohibited from photographing or recording videos of employees engaged in union or other protected activities. Federal law makes it illegal to film union meetings and other related events.

An employer can legally record their employees at work in common areas and other public locations in the workplace. To stop an employer from installing workplace cameras, an employee must prove they have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the public areas at work.

Penalties for Violating California Security Camera Laws in Your Business

Business owners who violate California security camera laws can face civil or criminal penalties. Criminal penalties for violating California security camera laws can include a fine of up to $2,500 and up to one year in jail.

You could also be sued for damages if an employee or customer is harmed by having security cameras in a private place.

The Golden Gate Bridge

How to File a Complaint if Someone is Violating California Security Camera Laws

The California Department of Consumer Affairs (Cal DCA) takes complaints regarding security camera laws in California. If you have witnessed or been a victim of a violation you can report it to Cal DCA. This is different than other states like New York where state and local law enforcement are the first step in the complain process.

How to File a Complaint with Cal DCA

To file a complaint with the California Department of Consumer Affairs, you will need to submit the following:

  • Your name, address, and phone number
  • The name, address, and phone number of the business you are filing a complaint against
  • A description of your complaint
  • Any relevant documentation you have to support your complaint

You can submit your complaint online, by mail, or by fax.

Complaints can be submitted online at https://www.dca.ca.gov/webapplications/apps/complaint/index.shtml

Or by Mail: Department of Consumer Affairs

Office of the General Counsel – Intake Unit

1625 North Market Blvd., Suite N 112

Sacramento, CA 95834

Or by Fax: (916) 263-3883

What to Include in Your Complaint

When submitting your complaint, be sure to include as much detail as possible. Include the following:

  • The name and location of the business you are filing a complaint against
  • The date(s) of the incident (s)
  • A description of what happened
  • The names of any witnesses to the incident (s)
  • Any relevant documentation you have to support your complaint, such as security camera footage or photos

What Happens After You File a Complaint

Once Cal DCA receives your complaint, a representative will review the complaint and likely begin an investigation. If there is enough evidence, an investigator will contact you to discuss the next steps. If your case does not show enough evidence, your complaint will be closed.

Depending on the complexity of the case, an investigation can take anywhere from a few days to several months to complete. Following the investigation, the investigator will submit a report to the District Attorney’s office in the county where the violation occurred. The District Attorney’s office will decide whether or not to file criminal charges.

If you have more questions about the complaint process, you can contact Cal DCA at (800) 952-5210.

home security laws for your home

Conclusion

The security camera laws in California are designed to protect the privacy of individuals while still allowing business owners and landlords to monitor their property. These laws strike a balance between the need for security and the right to privacy. By understanding the security camera laws in California, you can ensure that you are in compliance with the law and that your rights are protected.

FAQs

Do I need a permit to install home security cameras in California?

No, you don’t need a permit to install home security cameras in California. HOA’s may have additional restrictions for their communities, though. Check with your HOA Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) and bylaws to see if you can put up security cameras around your HOA home.

Can my employer legally record me at work?

In most cases, yes. However, there are some exceptions. For example, employers cannot legally record you in areas where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as in bathrooms or locker rooms. Additionally, employers cannot record you if you are engaged in union or other protected activities.

Where can California landlords point security cameras?

Landlords can install security cameras in common areas, such as hallways, stairwells, and lobbies. They cannot point cameras into private areas, such as individual apartments or bedrooms.

Can I sue someone for recording me without my permission in California?

Yes. If you are recorded without your permission in a place where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy, you can sue the person who recorded you for invasion of privacy. You can also sue if you are recorded in a way that is harmful or offensive to you.

Can I be fired for being recorded at work?

In most cases, no. However, there are some exceptions. For example, if you’re engaging in union or other protected activities, your employer may not legally record you. Additionally, if you have a reasonable expectation of privacy (such as in a bathroom or locker room), your employer cannot legally record you. You can be fired if you’re recorded while engaged in illegal activity. You can also be fired if video shows you violating company policy in areas where you have no reasonable expectation of privacy.

How long do I have to file a complaint with Cal DCA?

There is no time limit to file a complaint with the Cal DCA. However, it’s best to file your complaint as soon after the incident(s) occur(s) as possible. This ensures the investigators can gather all of the evidence they’ll need to make a determination.

What if I am not a California resident?

You can still file a complaint with the Cal DCA if you are not a California resident. However, the investigation will be limited to incidents that occurred in California.

What if I am a victim of a crime?

If you are the victim of a crime that was captured on security camera footage, you can contact your local law enforcement agency to request a copy of the footage. You can also request a copy from the business or property owner where the footage was recorded. In most cases, businesses and property owners will cooperate with law enforcement agencies and provide them with any relevant footage.

Are there any other laws I should be aware of?

Yes. In addition to the security camera laws discussed in this article, California also has laws governing the use of drones and hidden cameras. Be sure to familiarize yourself with these laws before using drones or hidden cameras.

*This article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. If you have any further legal questions, please contact your local law enforcement agency or an attorney.

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