The Illinois General Assembly failed this month to change the state’s tough eavesdropping law even though federal and state courts have said it violates the First Amendment. Currently, audiotaping without the permission of everyone involved in a con
versation is a felony in Illinois, making it unlawful for citizens to tape encounters with police.
Last month, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Illinois law – viewed as the toughest in the nation – could not be enforced as written because it barred recording of public officials’ actions in public. The decision was handed down just before the NATO meeting in Chicago, which attracted large protests and citizen-police confrontations.
A 2-1 majority on the federal appeals court held that the current law likely violates the First Amendment because people probably have a First Amendment right to record the things public officials do in public. Two Illinois state courts have found the law unconstitutional and a federal appeals court in Boston ruled a similar Massachusetts law unconstitutional.
In May, the Illinois House passed a bill to fix the problem by allowing citizens to record police in public as long as the recordings are not altered. But the bill ran into problems in the Senate where the sponsor wants to add provisions to ensure that police can record citizens. The disagreement could not be worked out before the session ended earlier this month.