Saturday, March 24, 2012

Eavesdropping Law in Illinois

Some of you may be aware of the controversy that has been arising about Illinois strict Eavesdropping law in the past few years. In Illinois, it is illegal to record a conversation with anyone unless all parties involved give consent or allow the conversation to be recorded. People violating this non-violent act could result in being charged with a Class 1 felony in which could carry out a 15-year prison sentence if he/she is convicted (IGA). However, some might argue that our states law is too broad and strict, and could easily lead to innocent people facing serious charges. One who agrees is Judge Stanley J. Sacks from Cook County who claims that this law is simply unconstitutional.  He states, “The Illinois Eavesdropping statute potentially punishes as a felony a wide array of wholly innocent conduct. 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” (Guess). It’s mind-blowing to think that this act carries a similar charge to that of attempted murder or rape.
In December 2009, a Chicago artist was approached by police because he was suspected to be selling his art without having a peddler’s license to sell legally. He recorded the conversation that he was having with them where he thought he could use it as evidence. The artist argued that due to the conversation happening in a public setting, he didn’t believe that he was violating the privacy of an officer. He was charged with Eavesdropping, however, the ruling resulted in the favor of the artist with it being dismissed.
            Another Illinois case erupted where Michael Allison recorded police officers on duty in his front yard inspecting vehicles he was repairing. Allison was fined for failing to register the vehicles, and so he requested an ordinance hearing. He then brought his camera that he used that day and recorded the entire hearing. Immediately after the hearing, he was arrested for five counts of Eavesdropping. If he was found guilty, he could easily be spending the rest of his life in prison in which the felonies could bring about a sentence of 75-years. Luckily, all five of those counts were dismissed. “A statute intended to prevent unwarranted intrusions into a citizen’s privacy cannot be used as a shield for public officials who cannot assert a comparable right of a privacy in their public duties,” the judge wrote in his decision against defendant Michael Allison. The judge also stated that Allison has a First Amendment right to record the police officers and court employees. He ruled that while it was reasonable to prohibit the defendant from recording in the courtroom, making what Allison did a felony offense was overreaching and irrational (Sexton).

I hope that these cases provide an eye-opener for lawmakers to see that the Eavesdropping law is way too broad and needs to be re-defined. In doing so, I believe that this will prevent these innocent people from getting charged with a serious crime they never intended or thought they were committing. Our system needs to quit trying to convict these innocent offenders and worry about violent crimes that are putting society in danger.


  1. I understand why it is a law but I also agree with that this law like many others do need to be redefined and narrowed down so that the laws are doing what they are meant to do and not do more harm than good.

  2. I agree with the above. The punishment for eavesdropping is ridiculous. Either way I think you should be able to record the conduct of an officer. As the video points out the video or audio may improve accountability on both the officer and the person contacted.

  3. It amazes me how this charge is a Class 1 felony. I find it funny how the government is allowed to wired tap and record when ever they want but an average Joe can't even take a video. Lawmakers should definitely redefine this rule especially because of the fact that our society is getting more and more technologically advanced. This makes it quite easy for someone to be charged with a felony.

  4. I never heard of such a stupid law, going to prison for 15 years because you eavesdropped is just crazy. It should not be considered a class 1 felony that is just ridiculous. I don't know why law makers take the time and energy to make stupid laws like this, if they are going to make a law make it very specific so people can understand it and make it to where it fits our society, because it is constantly changing. Overall a interesting article.

  5. While I have heard about a large number of laws to protect the privacy of citizens, I would agree that this law, although it may serve some useful purpose, is definitely too broad if it is really that easy to charge someone with that crime. In the "right to privacy", which is in fact a fabricated right not found in the constitution, we have determined that what is said in public and loudly enough for others to hear is fair game for evidence collection. If they were in a phone booth or their own home then I would understand, but charging someone with a felony simply because all parties in a public place did not agree to having their public conversations, purposefully or unintentionally, recorded is ridiculous. Great post.

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