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Name: People v. Drennan
Case #: C033959
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 11/27/2000
Subsequent History: None

Drennan, the superintendent of the Modoc School District, was convicted of violating Penal Code section 632, subdivision (a), (intentional eavesdropping or recording a confidential communication), for installing a hidden video camera, which took still pictures, in the office of the Modoc High School principal. The appellate court reversed the conviction, because the photographing of the office, without recording of conversations, was not an intentional act of recording a confidential communication within the meaning of the statute. Although unconsented videotaping is prohibited by Penal Code section 647, subdivision (k), section 632 does not extend to the taking of photographs without accompanying sound. The plain language of the statute, which focuses on recording of communications permits no other interpretation which would include non-content based conduct coincident to the communication. The legislative history further shows that the bill was intended to prohibit the use of wiretap and electronic eavesdropping devices. The existence of section 647, subdivision (k), shows that the legislature knows how to prohibit the video recording of private conduct when it chooses to do so. Therefore, there was insufficient evidence to support Drennan’s conviction, and reversal was required.