Judge: Illinois Eavesdropping Law is Unconstitutional

Cook County Judge Stanley Sacks says law could criminalize "wholly innocent conduct"

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    An Illinois law against recording conversations has been ruled unconstitutional for the second time in a year.

    The law makes it a felony to record conversations without the consent of everyone involved. Even recording public officials in public places can be illegal.

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    Harold Krent, the Dean of the Kent College of Law at the Illinois Institute of Technology, says the recording and publishing of police officers' actions could potentially compromise an ongoing investigation.

    Cook County Judge Stanley Sacks ruled the law unconstitutional Friday, saying it could criminalize "wholly innocent conduct."

    The ruling involves the 2009 arrest of artist Christopher Drew for selling his work without a permit. Police charged him with illegal eavesdropping after learning he was recording the arrest.

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    Citing the First Amendment, the ACLU on Tuesday asked a federal appellate court to block future prosecutions of the ACLU and its staff members for recording police officers performing their public duties in a public space.

    A Crawford County judge has also ruled against the law. That case is being appealed.

    Illinois is rare in prohibiting citizens from recording police officers without their permission. It's a law the American Civil Liberties Union is challenging, and one that even police Supt. Garry McCarthy is on record saying he'd like to see changed.

    Others, however, say the the recording and publishing of police officers' actions could potentially compromise an ongoing investigation.

    Breaking the state's eavesdropping law is a Class 1 felony in Illinois. The Cook County State's Attorney's Office and Chicago's Fraternal Order of Police are on record supporting the legislation in its current form.