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]