cook county cannot prosecute people for recording the audible communications of police

by Tim Phillips

In 1994, the Illinois legislature amended the Illinois Eavesdropping Act such that it became a felony to openly record the audible communications of law enforcement officers, or others whose communications were incidentally captured, when the officers were engaged in their official duties in public. This week U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve signed an order permanently enjoining the State’s Attorney of Cook County from enforcing the Act against any person who openly records such communications. Even the State’s Attorney agreed that the section of the Act at issue violated the First Amendment.

Although the First Amendment protects one’s right to openly document officers’ behavior in public, by way of audio or video recording, officers often fabricate criminal offenses to arrest people for doing so. They also routinely lie under oath to ensure that, once arrested, people are convicted. According to the People’s Law Office,

Would-be cop watchers and observers should, as always, take note that while Monday’s order may make that activity technically safe from prosecution, police may still respond negatively or aggressively to being recorded. In such a case, a slew of discretionary charges … (obstructing a peace officer and resisting a peace officer), as well as other malleable charges like disorderly conduct, are available to police and prosecutors and are frequently used to punish lawful conduct.