Contrary to what you may have recently read on your Facebook feed, the state of Illinois’ new eavesdropping legislation will not prohibit the recording of police officers — though advocates do have other concerns about the bill.
Earlier this month, the Illinois House of Representatives and Senate both voted overwhelmingly in favor of the state’s new eavesdropping bill. The legislation is intended to replace Illinois’ previous law, elements of which were ruled unconstitutional by the Illinois Supreme Court in March.
The previous law, deemed to be among the strictest in the nation, technically forbade any recording of anyone without consent from all parties involved. The new proposal draws a distinction between “private” conversations and those that “cannot be deemed private,” such as a loud argument on the street. The recording of private conversations, unless there is all-party consent or a warrant, remain prohibited under the bill.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois fiercely fought the previous eavesdropping law, and worked with state lawmakers to craft its replacement. They offered a mixed review of the new proposal, saying the organization is pleased the new statute “generally protects our reasonable expectations of privacy in our conversations, phone calls, and electronic communications from unwanted recording or interception.” They also noted it protects the ability of civilians to record on-duty government officials and police officers “talking with the public as part of their jobs.”
However, the ACLU expressed concern that the new bill "significantly expands" police eavesdropping by allowing law enforcement and informants to record or capture certain private conversations for 24 hours before a warrant is necessary, in the event of certain serious crimes and with the approval of a state attorney. Previously, such requests required the prior approval of a judge, whose role -- unlike a state attorney's -- is outside law enforcement.
State Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D), a lead cosponsor of the bill, admitted the expanded number of circumstances where police may surreptitiously record or otherwise intercept communications was a trade-off for allowing the protections of public recordings to be included, the Associated Press reported.
The measure also drew some criticism for not addressing privacy issues related to police officers wearing the body cameras some departments, including Chicago’s, will soon implement. Fellow bill sponsor Rep. Kwame Raoul (D) said he and Nekritz will work on a separate bill addressing that topic in the coming weeks, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
The legislation now awaits the signature of Gov. Pat Quinn (D) before it becomes law.
Quinn spokesman Dave Blanchette told The Huffington Post Wednesday the bill has not yet been received by the governor, but that once the legislation reaches his desk, he will carefully consider it. Blanchette did not say whether the governor intended to sign the measure or not.
Regardless if whether Quinn signs the legislation, it remains legal in all 50 states, including Illinois, for civilians to record their interactions with police officers while officers are on duty, so long as civilians do not interfere with officers’ ability to do their job.