Supreme Court Rejects Plea To Enforce Anti-Eavesdropping Law

Lawyers argued that allowing the recording of police would discourage civilians from speaking candidly to officers and could cause problems securing crime scenes or conducting sensitive investigations.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal of a controversial Illinois law prohibiting people from recording police officers on the job, reports the Chicago Tribune.

By passing on the issue, the justices left in place a federal appeals court ruling that found that the state’s anti-eavesdropping law violates free-speech rights when used against people who audiotape police officers.

A temporary injunction issued after that June ruling effectively bars Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez from prosecuting anyone under the current statute. On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the lawsuit against Alvarez, asked a federal judge hearing the case to make the injunction permanent, said Harvey Grossman, legal director of the ACLU of Illinois.

Grossman said he expected that a permanent injunction would set a precedent across Illinois that effectively cripples enforcement of the law.

Alvarez’s office will be given a deadline to respond to the ACLU request, but on Monday, Sally Daly, a spokeswoman for Alvarez, said a high court ruling in the case could have provided “prosecutors across Illinois with legal clarification and guidance with respect to the constitutionality and enforcement” of the statute.

Illinois’ eavesdropping law is one of the harshest in the country, making audio recording of a law enforcement officer — even while on duty and in public — a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Public debate over the law had been simmering since last year. In August 2011, a Cook County jury acquitted a woman who had been charged with recording Chicago police internal affairs investigators she believed were trying to dissuade her from filing a sexual harassment complaint against a patrol officer.

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  • jay

    This tread towards greater police transparency is a big step towards mitigating police abuse of power.

  • Paul Simon

    The has issued an informational video and a press
    release, to help the media and the general public in the upcoming oral argument
    at the Illinois Supreme Court hearing in Annabel Melongo’s eavesdropping case.
    The hearing is scheduled for January 14th, 2014, at the 18th floor of the
    Michael A. Bilandic Building, 160 N. LaSalle Street, Chicago at 9.30 am.


    Press Release:

    Please support this cause. The Illinois Eavesdropping law at its very core
    creates a two-class legal system wherein the conversations of the powerful and
    well-connected are protected to the detriment of the less powerful. The
    upcoming oral argument presents a unique opportunity for the common citizen to
    re-establish that legal balance that will unequivocally establish a right to
    record public officials in their public duties.

    Therefore, please contribute to this all-important hearing by either
    attending it, writing about it, spreading the word or just forwarding the below
    video and press release to anybody who might be of any help.