Another blow for state's anti-eavesdropping law

November 26, 2012

The Associated Press

The U.S. Supreme Court is rejecting a case by Cook County State’s attorney Anita Alvarez. who was asking the court to uphold an Illinois law making it illegal for people to record police officers.

Under Illinois law you can photograph or even videotape police officers in public but you can’t record audio. The state’s eavesdropping law makes it a crime even if the officers are in public where there’s seemingly no expectation of privacy.

The ACLU of Illinois has been challenging the law and won a victory today when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case. Harvey Grossman with the ACLU says it means a favorable lower court ruling will stand.

“There’s no reason for a police officer to be concerned about being audio recorded when in fact they’re lawfully performing their duties,” said Grossman.

Grossman says video recording with the sound is the best way to prove or disprove allegations of police misconduct and it’s the best way to monitor police conduct that might be perfectly legal but could still be improved.

In a written statement Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said she was disappointed that the Supreme Court wouldn’t be providing guidance on the constitutionality of the eavesdropping law, an issue that the office argued is going to affect many state’s because different courts have given conflicting rulings.

Alvarez asked the Supreme Court to weigh in on the issue saying public officials like police officers, and even regular citizens, they often have private conversations in public places, where much of life is lived. And Alvarez argued that people shouldn’t have to worry that their private conversations will be recorded and broadcast just because they take place in public.

Now that the Supreme Court has refused to hear the case, the law will go back to the federal district court in Chicago for further review.