Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Court bars enforcement of eavesdropping bill, but some say legislation still needed

By Ashley Griffin 

The debate over Illinois’ eavesdropping law has taken yet another turn.

This week, a federal appeals court called for an injunction to block Cook County prosecutors from enforcing a provision in the law that bars citizens from making audio recordings of on-duty police officers. The court reportedly called the provision the “broadest of its kind in the country” and said that it “likely” violates First Amendment rights.

Although a court has ruled on the measure, supporters of Senate Bill 1808, which is sponsored by Northbrook Democratic Rep. Elaine Nekritz, say the measure is still needed. “We applaud yesterday’s decision by the 7th Circuit U.S. Courts of Appeals as it applies to Illinois’ eavesdropping law being unconstitutional,” said Josh Sharp, director of government relations for the Illinois Press Association. “I do make to want clear that the legislative option is certainly something that still remains on the table. We had some questions about the applicability of yesterday’s decision and who exactly it will apply to in the state of Illinois.”

Backers of the bill say they are concerned that the court ruling would only apply to Cook County, leaving downstate residents open to prosecution. Recording a police officer without permission is a felony that carries a sentence of up to 15 years. They say legislation is necessary to clarify the ruling. Nekritz’s bill would allow for the recording of on-duty officers in public places. It would also bar the use of doctored or edited recordings in a complaint against an officer. Law enforcement officials oppose an earlier version of the bill, and it was shot down by the House. But Nekritz hopes that the new version, with its provision to address tampering, will gain more support.


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