In a huge, if not exactly decisive, victory for civil liberties, a state judge in Illinois has declared that state’s eavesdropping law, which has been used to prosecute people for recording the police engaged in brutality and misconduct, unconstitutional.
A Cook County judge on Friday declared the state’s controversial eavesdropping law unconstitutional, securing an important victory for activists who want to videotape the police in public but muddying the legal waters as the city gears up for potentially thousands of demonstrators for the G-8 and NATO summits in May.
In a 12-page decision, Criminal Courts Judge Stanley Sacks ruled that the law is too broad and potentially criminalizes “wholly innocent conduct.” He cited as an example a parent recording her child’s soccer game and inadvertently capturing a conversation between two bystanders.
“Although it is extremely unlikely that this doting parent would be charged with a felony offense, the fact remains that she could, thusly punishing innocent conduct,” Sacks wrote.
The decision came in the case of Christopher Drew, an artist who was arrested in 2009 for selling art on a Loop street without a permit. Drew was charged with eavesdropping after he used an audio recorder in his pocket to capture his conversations with police during his arrest.
The state is going to appeal the ruling, of course, which is why it’s not exactly a decisive victory. If it is upheld, that will be huge.