Illinois: Where Recording On-Duty Cops Is Treated Like Sexual Assault

Last week, an Illinois judge rejected Chicago artist Christopher Drew's motion to dismiss the Class I felony charge against him. Drew is charged with violating the state's eavesdropping statute when he recorded his encounter with a police officer last December on the streets of Chicago. A Class I felony in Illinois is punishable by 4 to 15 years in prison. It's in the same class of crimes as sexual assault. Drew will be back in court in June to request a jury trial.

I'm currently working on a feature for Reason about man in a more rural part of the state charged with six violations of the same statute, all of them for making audio recordings of on-duty public officials. For several of the counts in that case, the police were actually on the man's property. He started recording his conversations with police because he felt he was being unjustly harassed for violating a town ordinance he thought was unconstitutional.

I'm of the opinion that it should always be legal to record on-duty police officers, both as a matter of policy and under the free speech, free press, and right to petition the government provisions in the First Amendment. We saw the power and potential of audio and video recording technology to expose government abuse in the Iranian protests last summer. But we also see it here in the U.S. with the thousands of  police misconduct videos uploaded to YouTube in recent years.

Typically, police who want to arrest someone for recording them while on duty use a strained interpretation of state wiretapping laws or whatever state or local law addresses obstructing or  interfering with law enforcement. These incidents are troubling enough, and I think state legislatures should consider passing laws explicitly making it legal to record on-duty law enforcement officials. Those laws should include remedies for people wrongly arrested, or who have had their cameras or cell phones illegally confiscated, damaged, or destroyed.

But in Illinois the situation is quite a bit worse. In Illinois it actually is illegal to make audio recordings of on-duty cops--or any other public official. Illinois is one of a handful of states that require all parties to consent before someone can record a conversation. But the other all-party-consent states also include a provision in their statutes stating that for there to be a violation of the law the nonconsenting party must have a reasonable expectation of privacy. On-duty police officers in public spaces have no such expectation.

Here's where it gets even worse: Originally, the Illinois eavesdropping law did also include a similar expectation of privacy provision. But the legislature stripped that provision out in 1994, and they did so in response to an incident in which a citizen recorded his interaction with two on-duty police officers. In other words, the Illinois legislature specifically intended to make it a Class I felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, to make an audio recording of an on-duty police officer without his permission.

Given the spate of recent stories about cops in Chicago caught on video misbehaving (some of whom were subsequently held accountable only because of the video), the legislature's already-awful-when-it-passed 1994 amendment hasn't aged well.

I suspect most state officials know this law is unconstitutional. While several people have been charged under the statute for recording public officials, I've so far been unable to find anyone who was actually convicted, much less had a conviction upheld. (If you know of someone who has, please email me!) Prosecutors tend to either drop the charges or offer a plea bargain before the case gets to trial. It isn't difficult to see why someone would take a misdemeanor plea and a clean record instead of challenging a bad law and risking up to 15 years in prison and a felony record if they lose.

Before Drew the closest anyone came to challenging the law came in 2004, when documentary filmmaker Patrick Thompson was arrested for recording police interactions with patrons outside of bars and restaurants in Champaign-Urbana. He was looking to document allegations that police were treating white patrons differently than black patrons. (See the ACLU's brief on Thompson's behalf here). But Thompson took a plea bargain before his case went to trial.

So the law remains on the books. Which Illinois police officers remain authorized by state law to detain, arrest, and jail people who record them while on-duty, and they can continue to confiscate the recordings.

(Cross-posted at Instapundit.)

UPDATE/CORRECTION: Eugene Volokh emails to say that Massachusetts also doesn't appear to recognize an expectation of privacy exception to its all-party-consent law, and has upheld a conviction for recording on-duty police officers.

 

http://reason.com/blog/2010/05/20/illinois-where-videotaping-on

Views: 111

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

i agree. the police are totally out of hand. im honestly nursing a broken rib now because of st louis police. i just asked why i was pulled over n was attacked, drug out n kicked. i didn't smart off, i never resisted. it ended up i had a traffic warrant for not showing an insurance card from 1992!!! honestly. im a white guy, short hair, driving a truck thats only a couple years old. my history as far as the police has no crimes except traffic. cant imagine if i woulda pulled out a camera. prolly woulda shot me. we deserve the right to protect ourselves, n if they have nothing to hide they shouldn't be worried. on the contrary, they should revel in the chance at more evedence. just my 2 cents.

RSS

"Destroying the New World Order"

TOP CONTENT THIS WEEK

THANK YOU FOR SUPPORTING THE SITE!

mobile page

12160.info/m

12160 Administrators

 

Latest Activity

Doc Vega posted photos
12 minutes ago
Doc Vega posted blog posts
51 minutes ago
Doc Vega commented on Doc Vega's blog post Was Sabotage or Terrorism used in the Collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge?
"Less Prone thanks for the reply. Yes, these events could be very effective at destroying the US…"
2 hours ago
tjdavis posted photos
22 hours ago
Doc Vega posted photos
yesterday
Doc Vega posted blog posts
yesterday
rlionhearted_3 posted a photo
yesterday
Doc Vega posted a blog post

Illegal Aliens from Central America Blaming the US for their trespassing?

Charlie Kirk tells these people to scram! Bullshit time is over! …See More
Wednesday
Doc Vega favorited tjdavis's blog post Full Retard Shelia Jacko Lee
Wednesday
Doc Vega commented on tjdavis's blog post Full Retard Shelia Jacko Lee
"How do these crazy bitches get into office? Got to be voting fraud unless their constituents are…"
Wednesday
cheeki kea commented on cheeki kea's blog post Countries where "hate" speech is a criminal offence.
Wednesday
cheeki kea posted a blog post

Countries where "hate" speech is a criminal offence.

Next up in clown world world...Implementation of Hate speech laws. There's red flags all over the…See More
Wednesday
tjdavis posted a video

SUPER TRUMP SONG! [Not a joke]

By the Jerusalem Boys Choir no less.Perhaps it is the dramatic policy contrast from his predecessor. Perhaps it is moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, or rec...
Wednesday
tjdavis posted blog posts
Wednesday
rlionhearted_3 posted photos
Tuesday
Doc Vega posted blog posts
Tuesday
cheeki kea favorited Doc Vega's blog post Freedom of the Press? Only if you’re a Liar
Tuesday
Sandy posted a photo
Tuesday
cheeki kea posted a photo
Tuesday
tjdavis posted photos
Monday

© 2024   Created by truth.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service

content and site copyright 12160.info 2007-2019 - all rights reserved. unless otherwise noted