Illinois Just Made it a Felony for Its Citizens to Record the Police and the Media is Silent

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Only a gov­ern­ment that lives like cock­roach­es in the dark­ness would pass a law crim­i­nal­iz­ing the act of turn­ing on the light.filming-the-police-illegal-illinois

Illi­nois — In March of this year the Illi­nois Supreme Court struck down the state’s eaves­drop­ping law, and right­ful­ly so, as it was tout­ed as the most uncon­sti­tu­tion­al law of its kind in the coun­try.

But Illi­nois, being the the cor­rupt and vio­lent police state that it is, couldn’t let their police and oth­er gov­ern­ment offi­cials be held account­able by its cit­i­zens.

The bill is back, and with a vengeance.

The Amend­ment to Sen­ate Bill 1342 was intro­duced on Tues­day, Dec. 2, as an amend­ment to an exist­ing bill on a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent sub­ject. The amend­ment removed all of the bill’s pre­vi­ous con­tent and replaced it with the new ban on record­ing. The House passed it the fol­low­ing day, and the Sen­ate passed it the day after that.

This bill passed both the Illi­nois House and Sen­ate with over­whelm­ing major­i­ty votes; 106–7 in the House on and 46–4-1 in the Sen­ate. Democ­rats and Repub­li­cans alike slipped this bill by the cit­i­zens as they were debat­ing on whether the Gen­er­al Assem­bly would raise the state’s min­i­mum wage or make the 67% tem­po­rary income tax hike per­ma­nent, nei­ther of which passed.

Accord­ing to IllinoisPolicy.org, the bill dis­cour­ages peo­ple from record­ing con­ver­sa­tions with police by mak­ing unlaw­ful­ly record­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with police – or an attor­ney gen­er­al, assis­tant attor­ney gen­er­al, state’s attor­ney, assis­tant state’s attor­ney or judge – a class 3 felony, which car­ries a sen­tence of two to four years in prison. Mean­while, the bill makes ille­gal record­ing of a pri­vate cit­i­zen a class 4 felony, which car­ries a low­er sen­tenc­ing range of one to three years in prison.

There’s only one appar­ent rea­son for impos­ing a high­er penal­ty on peo­ple who record police in par­tic­u­lar: to make peo­ple espe­cial­ly afraid to record police. That is not a legit­i­mate pur­pose. And recent his­to­ry sug­gests it’s impor­tant that peo­ple not be afraid to record police wher­ev­er they per­form their duties so that offi­cers will be more like­ly to respect cit­i­zens’ rights, and offi­cers who do respect cit­i­zens’ rights will be able to prove it.

Below is some of the vague word­ing from this leg­is­la­tion.

(a) Eaves­drop­ping, for a first offense, is a Class 4 felony (from Ch. 38, par. 14–4) and, for a sec­ond or sub­se­quent offense, is a Class 3 felony.

(b) The eaves­drop­ping of an oral con­ver­sa­tion or an elec­tron­ic com­mu­ni­ca­tion of between any law enforce­ment offi­cer, State’s Attor­ney, Assis­tant State’s Attor­ney, the Attor­ney Gen­er­al, Assis­tant Attor­ney Gen­er­al, or a judge, while in the per­for­mance of his or her offi­cial duties, if not autho­rized by this Arti­cle or prop­er court order, is a Class 3 felony, and for a sec­ond or sub­se­quent offens­es, is a Class 2 felony 1 felony.

The word­ing in this bill is also writ­ten in such a way that it could sti­fle the recent police account­abil­i­ty mea­sures of body cam­eras. Police may argue that using body cam­eras to record encoun­ters with cit­i­zens out­side of “pub­lic” places would vio­late the law, as cit­i­zens have not con­sent­ed to being record­ed.

Only a gov­ern­ment that lives like cock­roach­es in the dark­ness would pass a law crim­i­nal­iz­ing the act of turn­ing on the light.

Trans­paren­cy and account­abil­i­ty in gov­ern­ment are what pre­vent tyran­ny. When the state pass­es laws which pre­vent these things, the direc­tion in which they are try­ing to move is obvi­ous.

Oth­er than a few small media out­lets cov­er­ing this blow to free speech, the MSM has been large­ly silent. Please help expose it, by shar­ing this sto­ry to expose this hor­ri­ble blow to gov­ern­ment account­abil­i­ty.

We can also stop this bill by call­ing the office of Illi­nois gov­er­nor, Pat Quinn, at 312–814-2121, and demand that he veto the Amend­ment to Sen­ate Bill 1342. Or you can email him at this link.

Update: Dec. 10 10:36 am:

This sto­ry has caused quite the stir­ring con­ver­sa­tion out there on the web. Some media out­lets are report­ing that it doesn’t make record­ing police offi­cers ille­gal, while oth­ers are cor­rob­o­rat­ing our report.

The leg­is­la­tion clear­ly states, as we show above, that record­ing any law enforce­ment or gov­ern­ment offi­cial dur­ing any pri­vate com­mu­ni­ca­tion will be con­sid­ered eaves­drop­ping; a felony,  pun­ish­able by jail time.

Pri­vate com­mu­ni­ca­tion is defined in the leg­is­la­tion as such:

For the pur­pos­es of this Arti­cle, “pri­vate con­ver­sa­tion” means any oral com­mu­ni­ca­tion between 2 or more per­sons, whether in per­son or trans­mit­ted between the par­ties by wire or oth­er means, when one or more of the par­ties intend­ed the com­mu­ni­ca­tion to be of a pri­vate nature under cir­cum­stances rea­son­ably jus­ti­fy­ing that expec­ta­tion.

Rea­son­able expec­ta­tion is defined in the leg­is­la­tion as such:

A rea­son­able expec­ta­tion shall include any expec­ta­tion rec­og­nized by law, includ­ing, but not lim­it­ed to, an expec­ta­tion derived from a priv­i­lege, immu­ni­ty, or right estab­lished by com­mon law, Supreme Court rule, or the Illi­nois or Unit­ed States Con­sti­tu­tion.

The prob­lem aris­es when we try to define rea­son­able expec­ta­tion, it is left up to arbi­trary inter­pre­ta­tion. As per the leg­is­la­tion: any police offi­cer, at any time, in Illi­nois can sim­ply say they have a rea­son­able expec­ta­tion of pri­va­cy and there­fore charge a per­son film­ing with a felony.

It would be par­tic­u­lar­ly naive, espe­cial­ly when look­ing at their recent his­to­ry of doing so, for any­one to assume that Illi­nois police would not use this bill to arrest peo­ple who film them.

There is how­ev­er, a sim­ple fix to this prob­lem of a vague­ly defined law and that is to clear­ly define it. Add a line which clear­ly states that “film­ing police in pub­lic is a con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly pro­tect­ed right and can­not be infringed.”