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7th Heaven Actor Stephen Collins and His Secretly Recorded Confession: Legal or Illegal?

Hollywood actor Stephen Collins of the hit-show 7th Heaven is currently under investigation following leaked recordings between Collins, his estranged wife and a therapist.  The recordings allegedly contain Collins’ own confession to various acts of child molestation and other sexual abuse that occurred in the 1970s.  In the recordings, a man alleged to be Stephen Collins, confesses in detail to molesting three underage girls on separate occasions.

Collins’ wife recorded the audio secretly during a counseling session that took place in California in 2012. Collins was reportedly unaware that the counseling session was being recorded.  However, under the advice of a California criminal defense attorney, Collins’ wife proceeded to record the private conversation.  The audio recordings have now been seized by the New York Police Department and an investigation is currently underway.

According to California law, generally, an individual recording a private conversation must have the consent of all parties to the conversation in order for the recording to be legal.  California is a “two-party consent” state meaning that conversations being recorded must have the consent of all parties to the conversation.

However, there are exceptions to the rule of consent.  In California, an exception to this rule is that the conversation can be recorded if the individual being recorded has no reasonable expectation that the conversation is not being overheard or recorded.  Another exception allows a conversation to be recorded in an effort to gather evidence that the other person has committed a felony.  This second exception applies to the case at hand.

Similarly, Florida is a “two-party consent” state and also requires the consent of all parties in order for a recording to be legal.  Florida does have an exception to this rule for in-person communications.  For in-person communications, consent is not required if the parties do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the conversation.  This can occur when the parties are engaged in conversation in a public place where the parties may be overheard.  Other exceptions to consent include when a recording involves the planning or perpetrating of a crime.

It is important to consult a criminal defense attorney in your state before attempting to record any conversation.  Many legal consequences can arise from an illegal recording.  Some of those consequences include criminal and civil action and imposed fines, among other penalties.

An experienced criminal defense attorney can best advise how to proceed with recording a conversation.  Not every state is a “two-party consent” state.  Each state follows its own laws on the recording of conversations.  Federal law may also govern depending on the circumstances.

If you are considering recording a conversation or believe that you have been recorded illegally, contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer to explore your legal options.  A criminal defense attorney can help you understand the law and certify that you are abiding by the laws.  Call Stroleny Law, P.A. today at 305-615-1285 to schedule a free consultation and to learn how experienced Miami and Broward county attorney Julian Stroleny can assist you.  Criminal defense firm, Stroleny Law, P.A. is ready to assist with all of your criminal defense needs.  For more information or to contact a representative, call us today or visit us online at

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