Court Affirms Your Right to Film Police in Illinois

by dave on November 29, 2012

in Criminal Justice, Privacy

The U.S. Supreme Court sent a message this week when they declined to hear an appeal overturning  an Illinois law that made it a felony to record police officers. The appeals  court decision against the law will stand, therefore your right to record police officers in Illinois is safe, for now.

Prosecutors in the state were hoping the Court would hear arguments over the controversial law, settling its legality once and for all. Instead, the Court’s decision not to hear it means they believe the Appeals Court ruling again the law should stand.

The case in question involved a woman who recorded on-duty police officers as she believed they were trying to talk her out of filing a sexual harassment complaint against another officer. She was acquitted by a Cook County jury in August of 2011. A Court of Appeals upheld that ruling and the Supreme Court’s choice to not hear the case affirms the decision.

The now unsupported law made it a felony offense to take an audio recording of a police officer, even if they are on duty and even if they are in public. The crime is punishable by 15 years.

This is in stark contrast to the laws of many other states where if the recording is in public or when the officer is on duty, he is assumed to have no assumption of privacy. In other words, recordings are fair game as long as they don’t interfere with police work.

For now, the law is still in place, though a temporary injunction was issued after the Appeals Court ruling, baring Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez from prosecuting anyone under it. The American Civil Liberties Union has asked the injunction be made permanent.  Legal director of the ACLU Harvey Grossman says that permanent injunction would “set a precedent across Illinois that effectively cripples enforcement of this law.”

While some, namely law enforcement groups, favor the law and say allowing recording is infringing on the privacy rights of police, even Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy has said he would approve of a change allowing citizens to record cops.

This is a hot button issue across the country as more people are equipped with recording devices now than ever. Still, the eavesdropping law here is one of the most draconian. The Supreme Court’s decision not to comment on the latest ruling sends a clear message that the law should be changed.

Whether you are accused of videotaping police or resisting arrest, you need a legal advocate on your side. Contact our attorneys today to discuss your case and get help.



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