Very good news out of DC. The U.S. Supreme Court denied cert in an appeal by the state of Illinois of a lower court ruling striking down that state’s law against recording police officers on duty. That leaves the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in place.
In that critical lower-court ruling in May, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the law – one of the toughest of its kind in the country – violates the First Amendment when used against those who record police officers doing their jobs in public.
Civil libertarians say the ability to record helps guard against police abuse. The law’s proponents, however, say it protects the privacy rights of officers and civilians, as well as ensures that those wielding recording devices don’t interfere with urgent police work.
The Illinois Eavesdropping Act, enacted in 1961, makes it a felony for someone to produce an audio recording of a conversation unless all the parties involved agree. It sets a maximum punishment of 15 years in prison if a law enforcement officer is recorded.
The ban on recording someone against their will or without their permission is generally a good one, but there is a very clear and compelling need to able to record the police — especially in Illinois, where the Chicago PD has a long track record of criminal behavior.