Northern District of Illinois Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman granted a permanent injunction on enforcement of the portion of the Illinois Eavesdropping Act that makes it illegal for a citizen to make an audio recording of law enforcement officials performing their public duties in public places. The case is ACLU v. Alvarez. Read more here.
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The Illinois House of Representatives voted down a bill on March 21 that would have amended the state’s eavesdropping law to permit citizens to make audio recordings of police officers doing their jobs in public places. Illinois’ strange eavesdropping law, which I’ve written about in the past, has been used by police in several high-profile incidents to charge civilians with felonies when they tried to record police misconduct.
Rep. Elaine Nekritz introduced a bill to amend the statute. Her bill, H.B. 3944, would have brought Illinois in line with other states, which, by and large, permit audio and video recording with the consent of one party to the conversation. Moreover, the bill reflected the reality that police officers really shouldn’t have an expectation of privacy when they perform public duties in public places. But, disappointingly, opponents of the bill shot it down in a 59-45 vote.
Meanwhile, on March 2, Cook County Judge Stanley Sacks found the eavesdropping law unconstitutional in the case of the artist Christopher Drew who was charged with a felony under the law for having a friend videotape his arrest. Judge Sacks noted: “The Illinois Eavesdropping Statute potentially punishes as a felony a wide array of wholly innocent conduct. A parent making an audio recording of their child’s soccer game, but in doing so happens to record nearby conversations, would be in violation of the Eavesdropping Statute.”