U.S. Supreme Court Punts on Eavesdropping Law; Recording Cops Legal?

Illinois cares about your privacy … and the privacy of cops, regardless of what those officers might be doing. Remember the infamous Rodney King tape? That recording could have resulted in felony charges and fifteen years in prison for the camera man had it happened in Illinois.

Not anymore. It looks like police officers will have to give up on beating up camera-equipped witnesses, as the Supreme Court refused to overturn the Seventh Circuit’s opinion, which found that the eavesdropping law violated First Amendment rights, reports The Associated Press.

The Illinois Eavesdropping Act bars anyone from recording a conversation without at least one participant’s permission. For all conversations, the offense is a felony. But for conversations between law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges, while in the performance of their official duties, eavesdropping is a Class 1 felony.

Or, at least it was. Or is. Perhaps even, it might be. Huh?

The prior appeals court rulings, which stand after the Supreme Court bypassed the case, only issued a temporary injunction barring enforcement of the existing law. Further legal sparring, spearheaded by the Americans Civil Liberties Union, will seek a permanent injunction.

State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez vowed to continue the fight. Her previous argument that Free Speech should not extend to recording others’ speech and should not trump privacy rights failed to sway the courts, but was intriguing nonetheless.

There’s also a possibility that a revised version of the law will be passed. Revisions made it out of the House this year, but stalled before reaching the governor.

For all of you amateur photographers and police paparazzi, this is good news. It means that, for now, you cannot be prosecuted for recording police officers. In all likelihood, now that the appeals have been exhausted, the temporary injunction will probably be extended permanently.

Let’s just hope that the Illinois legislature doesn’t muck it up again.

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U.S. Supreme Court Punts on Eavesdropping Law; Recording Cops Legal?