Illinois Judge Says Eavesdropping Law Is Unconstitutional

Today a Cook County judge ruled that the Illinois Eavesdropping Act, which makes it a crime to record public encounters with the police, is unconstitutional. The case involves Christopher Drew, a Chicago artist who was charged with eavesdropping, a felony carrying a penalty of up to 15 years in prison, after he recorded his own 2009 arrest for selling art without a peddler's license. "The Illinois Eavesdropping Statute potentially punishes as a felony a wide array of wholly innocent conduct," Judge Stanley Sacks noted. "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." 

Last year a Crawford County judge likewise ruled that the law violates the First Amendment, throwing out eavesdropping charges against Michael Allison, who had recorded his own interactions with police officers. Sacks' ruling should improve the chances for a bill that would modify the eavesdropping law to allow the recording of police officers in public places "if the conversation is at a volume audible to the unassisted ear of the person who is making the recording."

More on Christopher Drew here. More on Michael Allison here. More on camera-shy cops here.

[via Radley Balko's Twitter feed]

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  • Jeffersonian||

    I work in Illinois. It's one of the most fucked-up states in a union of fucked-up states. The legislature is almost pathologically disconnected from reality, thrift and any sense of decency.

  • ||

    I live in Illinois, but I drive across the Wabash for work. Not surprisingly, many people from my town work in Indiana.

  • ||

    North Carolina is undying heavenly paradise in comparison (I spent time in Illinois a few years ago). Thank God for Dixie.

  • God||

    You're welcome. If you're Christian.

  • ||

    I've never head the pleasure of visiting anything north of Colorado or Kentucky, but based on the horror stories I hear, it sounds like I'm not missing much.

  • ||

    Take Colorado, for instance. It blows by libertarian standards, rocks by global standards, and is good by national standards. Illinois is sort of like Satan's personal domain -- the only things that happen there are the sucking of infant blood and the torture of baby owls.

  • ||

    the torture of baby owls.

    Mother. Fuckers.

  • ||

    When referring to Illinois, and Chicago particularly, saying "mother-fuckers" is redundant.

    How 'bout them peddler's licenses?

  • ||

    I always hear that people are generally more asshole-ish up in that area.. same with new england, anyways.
    Luckily, Texas only drains the blood out of anchor babies to fuel our hybrid pickups.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    You don't really believe that all the red in the BBQ sauce is tomato-based, do you?

  • ||

    Tomato-based BBQ sauce?

    Blasphemy.

  • ||

    The law was passed because of the demand of cop unions. They openly claimed that they wanted to be protected against lawsuits. This tells us a lot about cops, lawmakers, and Illinois' voters.

  • shrike||

    Sheriff Joe is investigating BigFoot - and recent Elvis sitings, and other right-wing nutcase bullshit!

    Like the Fed! and the Bilderbergers!

    Go Joe Go!

  • ||

    And when you look back on this day, Shrike, recalling yearningly a time long gone, always remember that not a single fuck was given on this day.

  • ||

    not a single fuck was given on this day.

    I lol'd!

  • ||

    Shrike probably hasn't even read any of this yet. He's too busy cleaning up after his late-night rendezvous with Obama.

  • ||

    He's too busy cleaning up after his late-night rendezvous with Obama.

    Wouldn't a quick napkin to the chin be sufficient?

  • ||

    No; Obama brought along the entire DNC to get a taste of Shrike's "hospitality".

  • ||

    the entire DNC

    All of them? Wow, if he just had a flat head to rest my beer on, I'd marry him!

  • ||

    All of them. And EACH got two rounds of... stimulation. He's a real catch, ain't he?

  • dennis||

    Until there are consequences for police who harrass cameramen, this ruling does very little. I might suggest that any cop who arrests or threatens to arrest someone for filming them or goes out of their way to arrest them on a flimsy pretext should have 10% of their salary garnished and paid to the victim for, say, 10 years. That might put the kibosh on this sort of thing.

  • ||

    Or just fire them and forbid them to work in the public sector ever again. I have absolutely no patience for authoritarianism.

  • Dumbphy||

    Waaaaa!

  • Matt||

    "if the conversation is at a volume audible to the unassisted ear of the person who is making the recording."

    So deaf/hard of hearing people can't make audio recordings of police encounters?

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Its stupid. If you're whispering in someone's ear in public, you're still in public.

  • BakedPenguin||

    "if the conversation is at a volume audible to the unassisted ear of the person who is making the recording."

    ...then the cops will say they were close enough to interfere with investigations, and arrest them for obstruction.

  • ||

    This bears repeating.

  • BakedPenguin||

    "if the conversation is at a volume audible to the unassisted ear of the person who is making the recording."

    ...then the cops will say they were close enough to interfere with investigations, and arrest them for obstruction.

  • Joe M||

    They throw us bones every once in a while.

  • ||

    This will probably be overruled, then the next higher court won't hear the case.

  • The Happy Pessimist||

    That's the spirit!

  • The Drug War||

    Better safe than sorry!

  • Anonymous Coward||

    This is good news, but do you really think the Illinois legislature and the dons of Cook County will let a little thing like constitutionality stand in the way of their dream police state?

  • Invisible Finger||

    They'll just pass laws taxing recording devices and requiring background checks on anyone trying to buy one and jailing sellers who sell recording devices to ex felons and potential terrorists.

  • HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA||

    you know whats funny? poop and all things related to poop. i dare you to look at a movie of somebody pooping on something and not laugh.

  • rather||

    Shut up, John. Everybody knows it's you.

  • ||

    I'll consider it substantial progress when cops that take shit from people without a warrant, like yanking their cameras out of their hands on the street under threats of violence with deadly weapons, are charged with, and prosecuted for, armed robbery.

  • ||

    I just do not get why it is illegal to record cops doing their job. What is the logic behind that? Anonimity? I am the kind of guy that doesn't mind a little police street justice for a smartass punk. I just do not like the idea of police policing in secret.

  • ||

    I am the kind of guy that doesn't mind a little police street justice for a smartass punk.

    Yeah! There oughta be a 4th Amendment exemption for smartass punks!

    /rolls eyes

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Wait a minute...

    You need a fucking "peddlers license" to sell your own goddamn art in IL?

    The fuck?

  • ||

    Illinois, New York, Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware, Massachusetts, and California.

    Those states constitute what I call Deadstates -- so fucked up, it wouldn't surprise me if they started requiring people to acquire licenses for walking.

  • Jeffersonian||

    Youn know who else sold art without a license?

  • ||

    Adolf Hitler, die Führer und Reichskanzler?

  • ||

    ya think any part of the motivation for genociding the gypsies was their unlicensed peddling?

  • ||

    Now you need a license to ride a bike?

  • ||

    No, that was the homosexuals, with their pink and girly and ornamental and colorful artsy shit. The gypsies were straight-up violating gambol lockdown, a much more grievous offense.

  • ||

    Da Vinci?

  • S. Gamgee||

    "I ain't been droppin' no eaves sir, honest! I was just cutting the grass under the window there, if you'll follow me."

  • S. Gamgee||

    "Please, don't turn me into anything,...unnatural.'

  • ||

    There is a dude that is totally rocking it man.

    www.Gone-Anon.at.tc

  • ||

    The recently hired Chicago police superintendent recently stated the law should not exist because when police are recorded, it exonerates them more than it convicts them. I'm no fan of the police, but his statement is true. Both police and the real citizen benefit from being able to record.

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