Be careful the next time you whip out your cell phone to make a recording of an altercation at a public park or elsewhere on the streets, especially if police are around. You’d be breaking the law if you don’t have everyone’s consent.
The Illinois Eavesdropping Law makes it a felony punishable up to 15 years in prison to record the audio of anyone without their permission in private places like a bathroom but also in public like a neighborhood park.
Several high profile cases have been thrown out by the courts saying the law violates the First Amendment. One state lawmaker is trying to change the law, but her recent attempt failed.
Representative Elaine Nekritz, a Democrat from Des Plains, says enforcement of the Illinois Eavesdropping Law, as with many other laws, is up to prosecutorial discretion. Nekritz says this particular law is ripe for potential abuse.
A bill that would make the audio recordings of police captured in public exempt from the eavesdropping law failed the house vote 59 to 45. With area republicans voting “no”. Nekritz says those opposed to the bill think it would make an unfair playing field for police and the public. Nekritz hopes to bring a different version of her bill to the house floor soon.
With the NATO Summit planned for Chicago in May, there will be plenty of protestors, police, and news media on the streets. With that comes news cameras and even cell phone cameras ready to capture the action in audio and video. What some people may not know is if they didn’t get everyone’s consent to record, they could be charged with a felony. Illinois is one of a few states that has this type of law.
The arguments from those opposed to Nekritz’s proposed changes are concerned about a level playing field between the public and police. Nekritz says the issue is bigger than that.
Even though the bill failed, Nekritz says no bill is ever dead in the General Assembly. She hopes to bring back the bill with some changes to get more votes. Area republican representatives Raymond Poe and Rich Brauer voted against Nekritz’s bill. They were not immediately available for comments.