Illinois Supreme Court Unanimously Overturns the Country's Strictest Recording Ban

Today the Illinois Supreme Court unanimously overturned that state's draconian eavesdropping law, which makes it a felony to record public officials without their permission, even when they are performing their public duties. Two years ago the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit ruled that the law was unconstitutional as applied to police officers recorded in public. Today's decision extends that analysis to other public officials as well as private citizens when they do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

The justices note that the eavesdropping ban "criminalizes a wide range of innocent conduct," including "the recording of conversations that cannot be deemed private: a loud argument on the street, a political debate on a college quad, yelling fans at an athletic event, or any conversation loud enough that the speakers should expect to be heard by others. None of these examples implicate privacy interests, yet the statute makes it a felony to audio record each one. Judged in terms of the legislative purpose of protecting conversational privacy, the statute's scope is simply too broad."

The court adds that "even when the recorded conversation is held in private, the statute does not distinguish between open and surreptitious recording," insteading prohibiting "any recording of a conversation absent the consent of all parties." That means someone who openly records a conversation "must risk being charged with a violation of the statute and hope that the trier of fact will find implied consent."

Because the eavesdropping ban "burdens substantially more speech than is necessary to serve a legitimate state interest in protecting conversational privacy," the court concludes, "it does not survive intermediate scrutiny. We hold that the recording provision is unconstitutional on its face because a substantial number of its applications violate the first amendment."

The case involved Annabel Melongo, who was arrested for recording three telephone conversations with an assistant administrator at the Cook County Court Reporter's Office. Melongo was trying to correct an erroneous transcript from a computer tampering case in which she was involved, and she wanted to document her interactions with the court reporter's supervisor. She was charged with six counts of eavesdropping in 2010 and spent 20 months in jail because she could not make bail. Her 2011 trial ended with a hung jury.

[Thanks to Pete Heimlich and Ryan Compaan for the tip.]

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  • UnCivilServant||

    Watch the Chicago cops ignore the ruling and kep breaking cameras.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Public Filmer One: "You can't do this. Laws against recording police got declared unconstitutional!"
    Public Filmer Two: "It went out on the radio."
    Chicago PD: "Is that right? Well, we ain't got a radio."

  • Paul.||

    Your friends have abandoned, you...

  • John||

    Why not? It is not like it will cost them any money.

  • John Thacker||

    Immunity, don't you know.

  • gimmeasammich||

    Yes, it will just cost the Chicago taxpayer (me) money.

  • Swiss Servator, mehr Sprüngli||

    Already in for $100 mil just for brutality cases...

  • Paul.||

    It just proves that more training is needed.

    Chief reverses discipline for SPD officer who threatened journalist
    Posted by Steve Miletich
    Interim Seattle Police Chief Harry Bailey has reversed the disciplinary action imposed on an officer who threatened to harass a journalist, lifting a one-day suspension and instead ordering the lesser penalty of additional training.

    "Penalty of additional training".

    I'm keeping that for the ol' tool belt. Hell, I can see that becoming an H and R meme.

  • SweatingGin||

    "threatened to harass"

    What does that mean? "I'm going to give you a traffic ticket every day"?

  • Paul.||

    I'd have to look at the original articles and complaints, but I seem to remember something about the officer approaching the reporter (who works for The Stranger) and after some back-and-forth about the journalist having a right to film public officials in their line of duty, the officer threatened the journalist that he'd come by his place of employment and interfere with him in some way as retribution for the photographs he was taking.

    You have to remember, this is the department whose officers shoot homeless guys in the back 40' away and get huffy when you question it.

  • sarcasmic||

    and get huffy when you question it

    They get huffy when questioned, no matter what it's about.

  • sloopyinca||

    But boy can they surf!

  • Mainer2||

    The competitive body building puts them in great shape to surf.

    hth

  • Mainer2||

    The competitive body building puts them in great shape to surf.

    hth

  • Mainer2||

    The competitive body building puts them in great shape to surf.

    hth

  • Mainer2||

    The competitive body building puts them in great shape to surf.

    hth

  • sarcasmic||

    3 o'clock squirrels got you good!

  • gimmeasammich||

    who works for The Stranger

    So this guy is paid to sit on someone's hand before they jerk off?

  • Response||

    PO: The camera was in the way of me performing my duties, so I had to shoot it like a dog.

  • SweatingGin||

    Lone Wacko can get back to asking politicians tough questions, recording them, and posting their answers on YouTube.

  • sarcasmic||

    ...and nothing else happens.

  • Raven Nation||

    Banjos better keep Sloopy away from the sharp knives.

  • RBS||

    Beat me to it.

  • sloopyinca||

    God dammit! Motherfucking Craft, you stupid cocksucker. You can't shoot, you make stupid Gould and you beat the air out of the ball until the shot clock is almost run out.

    Fuck!

  • sloopyinca||

    Gould = fouls. Sorry EDG. That invective wasn't meant to diminish you in any way.

    Fucking Apple and the worst autocorrect system this side of an android.

  • ||

    More importantly, no more billion dollars for me. Damn. Good thing I had Dayton in my second H&R bracket.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Ah, I can log in, finally. Bonjour, scum.

  • sloopyinca||

    Great. Just the guy I hoped to see after that game.

  • Pro Libertate||

    What game?

  • sloopyinca||

    Oh, gonna play it that way?

    Did you get in the pool, by the way? I haven't looked at the names.

  • Pro Libertate||

    No, see below. Would've picked Florida to win and wouldn't have dumped Ohio State this early, despite their weird no-offense style of play.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I'm only so cruel, you know, and I was employed by the university.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Oh, and sorry I missed the pool. I missed the one at work, too, which I've won or come in second in the last three years. Fuck.

  • Swiss Servator, mehr Sprüngli||

    I just by to see if sloopy was OK... I weep for the Big Ten (no, really, as an IL taxpayer I want everyone from the conference to do well, not just Illinois...they have to help carry our sorry butts).

  • Another David||

    The Illinois Supreme Court? How many divisions has it got?

  • Fluffy||

    By even commenting on this board, all of you privileged libertarians are assaulting me by triggering my memories of the commenting disaster of 3/18/14 - 3/19/14.

    I should be entitled to beat you all up and steal your stuff and claim self-defense.

  • Raven Nation||

    Now this is a headline that means something entirely different to H&R folks:

    http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_.....simone-gma

  • Rich||

    Sheesh, what are those kids going to be like as *adults*? At least they're not *soccer* fans!

  • derpules||

    They'll become huffpo pussies

  • Rich||

    Waaah!

  • derpules||

    I'm not even going to read that

  • From the Tundra||

    Holy shit! It works!

  • Rich||

    Mirabile dictu!

  • Tamfang||

    So a reporter who pointed a microphone at, say, an alderman on the steps of city hall was a criminal unless the alderman expressly consented?

  • concerned cynic||

    The fact that a telephone conversation is being recorded should be clearly revealed, from the outset, to all participants in the conversation. Failing to do this should only be a misdemeanor, and any evidence collected in this manner should be inadmissible.

    People should have the right to video the police in the course of carrying out their duties. This is an obvious first step needed to curb abuses of power by police.

    I have seen a number of altercations involving adolescent AA women on YouTube. This should not be illegal, because such videos have the potential of supplying valuable evidence should one party press charges or sue for damages. The point I am making here applies to all interpersonal violence.

  • EsotericParty||

    When a court "strikes down a law," is that law immediately null and void? Can anyone explain how this works?

  • ||

    In this case it means that any further attempts to prosecute people for eavesdropping will be dismissed.

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