In March of this year, the Illinois Supreme Court struck down the state’s eavesdropping law, and rightfully so, as it was advertised as the most unconstitutional law of its kind in the country, however, Illinois couldn’t let their police and other government officials be held accountable by its citizens
The bill is back, and with a vengeance.
The Amendment to Senate Bill 1342 was introduced on Tuesday, Dec. 2, as an amendment to an existing bill on a completely different subject. The amendment removed all of the bill’s previous content and replaced it with the new ban on recording. The House passed it the following day, and the Senate passed it the day after that.
This bill passed both the Illinois House and Senate with overwhelming majority votes; 106-7 in the House, and 46-4-1 in the Senate. Democrats and Republicans alike slipped this bill by the citizens as they were debating on whether the General Assembly would raise the state’s minimum wage or make the 67% temporary income tax hike permanent, neither of which passed.
According to IllinoisPolicy.org, the bill discourages people from recording conversations with police by making unlawfully recording a conversation with police, an attorney general, assistant attorney general, state’s attorney, assistant state’s attorney or judge. If convicted, a person could receive a class 3 felony, which carries a sentence of two to four years in prison. Meanwhile, the bill makes illegal recording of a private citizen a class 4 felony, which carries a lower sentencing range of one to three years in prison.
There’s only one apparent reason for imposing a higher penalty on people who record police in particular, to make people especially afraid to record police. That is not a legitimate purpose. Recent history suggests it’s important that people not be afraid to record police wherever they perform their duties so that officers will be more likely to respect citizens’ rights, and officers who do respect citizens’ rights will be able to prove it.
Below is some of the vague wording from this legislation:
(a) Eavesdropping, for a first offense, is a Class 4 felony (from Ch. 38, par. 14-4) and, for a second or subsequent offense, is a Class 3 felony.
(b) The eavesdropping of an oral conversation or an electronic communication of any law enforcement officer, State’s Attorney, Assistant State’s Attorney, the Attorney General, Assistant Attorney General, or a judge, while in the performance of his or her official duties, if not authorized by this Article or proper court order, is a Class 3 felony, and for a second or subsequent offenses, is a Class 2 felony.
The wording in this bill is also written in such a way that it could stifle the recent police accountability measures of body cameras. Police may argue that using body cameras to record encounters with citizens outside of public places would violate the law, as citizens have not consented to being recorded.
Only a government that lives like cockroaches in the darkness would pass a law criminalizing the act of turning on the light. Transparency and accountability in government are what prevent tyranny. When the state passes laws which prevent these things, the direction in which they are trying to move is obvious.
It would be particularly naive, especially when looking at their recent history of doing so, for anyone to assume that Illinois police would not use this bill to arrest people who film them.