Illinois wiretapping law

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Illinois's wiretapping law (720 Illinois Compiled Statutes 5 / Criminal Code of 2012. Article 14, also called the Illinois eavesdropping law) was a "two-party consent" law. Illinois made it a crime to use an "eavesdropping device" to overhear or record a phone call or conversation without the consent of all parties to the conversation. The law was ruled unconstitutional in 2014 by the Illinois Supreme Court. The law defined an "eavesdropping device" as "any device capable of being used to hear or record oral conversation or intercept, retain, or transcribe electronic communication whether such conversation or electronic communication is conducted in person, by telephone, or by any other means".[1] The law had been repeatedly and controversially used to arrest people who have video-taped police.[citation needed]


In 2009, Christopher Drew was arrested for "selling artwork without a permit" on State Street in the downtown Chicago Loop. He had charges brought against him for "felony eavesdropping on a government official," a perverse charge that incorrectly implies the recording was not done in public. [2]

In August 2010, Tiawanda Moore had criminal wiretapping charges brought against her for secretly recording police officers with her BlackBerry when she was filing a complaint for sexual harassment. In August 2011, a jury cleared her of the charges brought against her, and in 2012 Moore filed a federal suit against the city, alleging "unreasonable seizure, false arrest and malicious prosecution".[3][4]

On June 1, 2011, Robinson, Illinois NBC local affiliate Channel 2 News reported[5] that Michael Allison, a Bridgeport resident, was being charged with 5 counts of felony wiretapping for recording his courtroom interaction with a judge after he answered a summons. His charges carried a possible 75 years in prison, simply for daring to record a judge and several police officers' attempts to tyrannize him for having an extra car parked on his mother's property. (Tax money was spent on the effort to violate his property rights, so it's "public" in the sense that public monies were being spent interacting with him, which should have made the interaction public, since the public has a right to know how their tax monies are being spent, especially as they are spent on prosecutions. Additionally, the interaction took place in a court of law, so the 6th Amendment right to "a speedy and public trial" should have made the interaction "public." If no means of recording an interaction are legally available, that interaction can essentially be considered "private," not "public." Further, individuals have a right to record their own interactions, since they have a right to report freely as members of "the Press," which should also make the interaction public. It's absolutely absurd and evil to claim that there's an expectation of privacy in a public space in a public courthouse.)

Court proceedings[edit]

In 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit ACLU v. Alvarez against the State's Attorney of Cook County, Anita Alvarez, to block prosecution of ACLU staff for recording police officers performing their duties in public places, one of the group's long-standing monitoring missions.[6] On 2 March 2012, Criminal Courts Judge Stanley Sacks deemed the Illinois wiretapping law unconstitutional, potentially criminalizing "wholly innocent conduct".[7] In November 2012, the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of this ruling.[6]

Alvarez and other state's attorneys, however, continued to pursue prosecutions against members of the general public who openly recorded on-duty police officers in public places.[8] As a result, on April 8, 2013, U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve signed an order permanently enjoining Alvarez from enforcing the wiretapping law against any person who openly records the audible communications of police.[9]

On March 20, 2014, the Illinois Supreme Court declared the Illinois wiretapping law unconstitutional unanimously in People v. Melongo[10] and People v. Clark.[11][12][13]

Revised law[edit]

Following the Melongo and Clark decisions, the state legislature drafted a bill amending the wiretapping statute to make it constitutionally compliant. The bill was injected into an unrelated piece of legislation, and was passed as SB1342 late in the legislative session. On December 30, 2014, Governor Pat Quinn signed the bill into law as Public Act 098-1142.[14]

SB1342 makes changes to the original language of the wiretapping law, adding that in order to commit a criminal offense, a person must be recording "in a surreptitious manner".[15] The bill's sponsors, Elaine Nekritz and Kwame Raoul, claim the law upholds the rights of citizens to record in public.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Illinois Recording Law". Citizen Media Law Project. 
  2. ^ "Christopher Drew, 1950-2012 Activist artist challenged state's eavesdropping law (ARTICLE)". Chicago Tribune. 10 May 2012. Retrieved 12 July 2018. 
  3. ^ "Tiawanda Moore, Woman Who Recorded Cops, Acquitted of Felony Eavesdropping Charges (VIDEO)". The Huffington Post. 25 August 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2012. 
  4. ^ "Illinois Eavesdropping Act: Tiawanda Moore Sues City Amid Multiple Challenges Of Law (VIDEO)". The Huffington Post. 16 January 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2012. 
  5. ^ "Illinois Man Faces 75 Years In Prison For Recording Cops (VIDEO)". Channel 2 News. 1 June 2011. Retrieved 12 July 2018. 
  6. ^ a b "Supreme Court rejects plea to ban taping of police in Illinois". Chicago Tribune. 26 November 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2012. 
  7. ^ "Eavesdropping Law Unconstitutional, Court Says". Chicago Tribune. 3 March 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2012. 
  8. ^ Sharlyn Grace. "Federal Court Enjoins Alvarez from Prosecuting Anyone Openly Recording On-Duty Police". People's Law Office. Accessed April 19, 2013.
  9. ^ Tim Phillips. "Cook County Cannot Prosecute People for Recording the Audible Communications of Police". Activist Defense. April 12, 2013.
  10. ^ People v. Melongo (PDF). Illinois Supreme Court Opinions, Illinois Supreme Court. Retrieved 31 August 2014. 
  11. ^ People v. Clark (PDF). Illinois Supreme Court Opinions, Illinois Supreme Court. Retrieved 31 August 2014. 
  12. ^, the Opinion on People v. Melongo
  13. ^ Illinois Supreme Court, the Opinion on People v. Clark
  14. ^ "Bill Status of SB1342". State of Illinois Legislative Information System. Illinois General Assembly. Retrieved 23 July 2015. 
  15. ^ "Public Act 098-1142". State of Illinois Legislative Information System. Illinois General Assembly. Retrieved 23 July 2015. 
  16. ^ O'Connor, John. "Eavesdropping Bill Focuses on 'Private' Dialogue". NBC Chicago. Retrieved 23 July 2015. 

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