Cook County judge rules state eavesdropping law unconstitutional

March 2, 2012

Michell Eloy

A Cook County judge says Illinois' law against eavesdropping is unconstitutional.

It's the second time this year a judge has ruled against the law, which prohibits audio recording conversations without the consent of everyone involved.

In his ruling Friday, Judge Stanley Sacks said the la in its current form could criminalize "wholly innocent conduct."

Sack's ruling came in the case of Christopher Drew, a Chicago artist who was arrested in 2009 for illegally selling his artwork without a permit. Drew was later charged in violation of the eavesdropping law after he was found to have recorded his arrest.

"This is what people all over the state have been contending, including members of the legislature, that this law is not constitutional, it does violate due process, and there needs to be a substantial change," said Joshua Kutnick, Drew’s Lawyer.

“We welcome the ruling. We agree with its finding and we think this is yet another example of when people look closely at this law, it doesn't stand up to scrutiny,” said American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois spokesman Ed Yohnka.

Meanwhile, the Illinois State House is considering an unrelated bill that permits the recording of police officers performing their official duties in a public.

Rep. Elaine Nekritz is the main sponsor of the bill, which is scheduled for a floor vote by the full House.

“This ruling demonstrates … that citizens have the First Amendment right to record police officers. This legislation would make that very clear in Illinois and stop the prosecutions that I think are really inappropriate,” said Nekritz.

Last Fall, a Crawford County judge ruled against current eavesdropping law.

The Cook County State's Attorney's office has not said whether it will appeal Friday’s ruling to the Illinois Supreme Court.

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