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New Eavesdropping Law in Illinois

Posted on in BGL Law

anti-eavesdropping law, crime investigation, criminal law, Crystal Lake criminal defense attorney, eavesdropping, eavesdropping lawEarlier this year, the Illinois Supreme Court struck down Illinois' anti-eavesdropping law, then considered the strictest in the nation. The court had concerns about the fact that the law was over-broad, and appeared to forbid people from recording police officers going about their duty, which many civil rights advocates believe is important for the protection of citizens. In response to the court's decision, the Illinois General Assembly recently passed a new eavesdropping law that attempts to criminalize improper eavesdropping, while preserving civil liberties. It succeeds in some places and fails in others.

The Public/Private Distinction

The most important piece of the new law is that it now draws a distinction between recording conversations that are private as compared to those that are public. Private conversations still operate under the old rule; it is a crime to record them without the consent of everyone involved. Public conversations are now outside the ambit of the law. This allows people to have their privacy, while still preserving the right of citizens to record police in the performance of their duty as a way of keeping them honest.

However, that summary glosses over an important question, “What does it mean to be private?” The new law itself does not clearly define what makes something private, but it does say that private conversations are those in which the participants have “a reasonable expectation of privacy.” This phrase is important because it is also used in other areas of the law. When it is used elsewhere, it means a conversation is private when two conditions are met. First, everyone in the conversation must believe that it is private, and second it must be “reasonable” to believe that. For instance, two people shouting across a crowded park to each other might actually believe that their conversation was private, but it would not be reasonable to do so.

Police Recording and Warrants

Unfortunately, the new eavesdropping law also has some less beneficial implications for citizens' Fourth Amendment rights, which protect them from warrantless searches. The new law creates a limited set of exceptions that allow police to intercept conversations for a short period of time either by notifying or getting approval from the State's Attorney in charge of the county where the interception is going to take place. However, police are not always allowed to take advantage of this new approval process. It usually requires approval of at least one person in the conversation, and can only be used when investigating certain types of crimes.

Illinois' new eavesdropping law has important implications for civil rights, and also creates a new set of criminal charges. If you are currently facing prosecution for an eavesdropping offense, contact a Crystal Lake criminal defense attorney today. Our firm is here to make sure you have someone on your side in court.

Illinois State Bar Association State Bar of Wisconsin Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce Illinois Trial Lawyers Association McHenry County Bar Association
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