Illinois Supreme Court Strikes Down Draconian Eavesdropping Law

By Carlos Miller

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It’s official: the draconian Illinois eavesdropping law is dead, wiped off the books by the Illinois Supreme Court earlier today in a ruling that stated the law was not only unconstitutional but way too broad, criminalizing the recording of conversations in places where there is no expectation of privacy.

So now with no law in the books, Illinois citizens can record each other in places where they do have an expectation of privacy, even publishing those recordings, making it no different than other states with one-party consent laws, which allow the recording of others as long as one person in the conversation is aware of the recording.

That is, until the Illinois legislature drafts a new statute.

Today’s decision comes two years after a federal appeals court issued a preliminary injunction forbidding police from arresting citizens who record them in public, something they had been doing with alarming regularity at the time.

But that decision did not address the recording of other public officials, which is what brought this case to light.

According to the Chicago Tribune:

The case involves Annabel Melongo, who recorded three telephone conversations she had with a court reporter supervisor at the George Leighton Criminal Courts complex.

Melongo called to correct an apparent error in a court transcript, then posted audio of the phone calls on a website she’d created to publicize her computer-tampering case. Prosecutors charged her in 2010 with six counts of eavesdropping and she spent more than 20 months in jail, unable to make bail.

The jury deadlocked at her 2011 trial and, later that year, her attorneys filed a motion arguing that the Illinois Eavesdropping Act was unconstitutional. In 2012, Judge Steven J. Goebel agreed, dismissing the charges. Prosecutors filed an appeal.

During arguments before the state Supreme Court, Melongo’s attorney said the law improperly gave sweeping powers to government officials to suppress First Amendment rights.

“It gives government officials and public actors unilateral and unfettered right to deny the press or citizens the right to record, gather information and disseminate information about the government,“ Melongo’s attorney Gabriel Plotkin said.

By requiring consent to record even public actions, the law would allow a police officer to tell citizens “you can’t watch what we’re doing, pay no attention to what your government is doing.”

The ruling, which can be read here, stated the following:

The State and defendant agree that the purpose of the eavesdropping statute is to
protect conversational privacy. However, the statute as now written more

Source: Donkeyrock_BlurBlog

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