New approach proposed on police eavesdropping law
SPRINGFIELD -- Opponents of Illinois’ strict eavesdropping law are trying again to carve out an exemption to allow citizens to make audio recordings of police officers.
Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, is shepherding Senate Bill 1808 as an alternative to her previous effort, House Bill 3944, which failed in March.
“We’re still working, but we’re right around where we need to be to get the bill through the House,” Nekritz said.
Illinois is a “two-party consent” state when it comes to audio recordings, meaning that everyone involved in a conversation must consent to being recorded.
Failure to obtain consent is a felony already, but it is the penalty for recording law enforcement officials—up to 15 years in prison—that has gained the most attention.
SB1808 is nearly identical to HB3944 except for one key aspect. The new bill requires state's attorneys to consider charges if a person alters an audio recording of a law enforcement official in order to make it look like he or she is guilty of wrongdoing.
That could result in a charge of obstruction of justice or disorderly conduct , said Melinda Bentley, assistant director of legislative affairs for the Illinois State Bar Association.
Nekritz said the provision was added to address the concerns of law enforcement, but conceded she does not expect those groups to change their position.
“Police don’t have an expectation of privacy in this situation,” she said. “We’re trying to address the First Amendment rights of citizens.”
At least two law enforcement groups, the Illinois State Police and the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, have said they oppose SB1808.
The new provision about penalties for altering recordings is a step in the right direction, said Laimutis Nargelenas, a lobbyist for IACP, but he said the bill is still unfair to law enforcement. He reiterated his support for one-party consent, in which only one person in a conversation would have to consent before being recorded. Nekritz opposes that idea.
SB1808 is to be considered by the House Judiciary Committee on Civil Law today.
David Thomas can be reached at (217) 782-6292.