Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Lawmaker wants another shot at changing eavesdropping law

By Ashley Griffin

Rep. Elaine Nekritz seeks to resurrect a controversial bill that would change the state’s eavesdropping law. 

Nekritz is the sponsor of House Bill 3944, which failed in the House — with 45 “yes” votes to 59 “no” votes —in March. The measure would have allowed for audio recording of police officers while on duty and in a public place. Currently, recording police officers without their approval is a Class 1 felony that can come with a punishment of up to 15 years in prison. There have been several recent high-profile cases in which the defendant who recorded police said he or she had no idea while making the recording that such a move is illegal in the state.

 Nekritz laid out proposed changes to her plan today. She said the revised measure, Senate Bill 1808, seeks to satisfy some concerns law enforcement officials had about her first bill. “The amendment that we added and the change that we have added addresses the situation where someone might make an audio recording and alter it, and then try to use that as evidence of some wrongdoing by that police officer. ... The amendment we’ve offered would require that tape be turned over to the state’s attorney for review of that,” Nekritz said.

 Nekritz believes that this time around, the proposal will have more success. “We obviously had a bill that came forward earlier in the year that did not receive an adequate number of votes. We have listened to the concerns of law enforcement and have changed the bill to try to address some of those concerns. We think we have some momentum in the Illinois House to have a different outcome on this vote.”

She said the legislation is not a response to the fact that Chicago will be hosting the NATO summit later this month, but she said it has gotten the issue more attention and made it easier to explain the need for a change to the current law. “We’d like to get it done by then, but we’re going to keep pushing to get it down by the end of session.” The Chicago Police Department reportedly plans not to enforce the law during the NATO summit. But Nekritz conceded that there are no guarantees that protesters and journalists might face legal troubles if they record police officers without permission. “The threat still exists, I think, for journalists that are going to be covering the NATO summit,” she said. The bill is scheduled for a committee hearing Wednesday morning.

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