Ruling raises more questions about eavesdropping law


SPRINGFIELD -- Questions about Illinois’ law against audio recording of police remain after a federal appeals court this week declared it unconstitutional.

Specifically up in the air is whether the ruling applies to everyone in the state.

Meanwhile, critics of the state’s eavesdropping statute are still pushing for legislation to allow civilians to make audio recordings of police while they do their jobs in public.

Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, said Senate Bill 1808 got a boost from the ruling.

It is still unclear whether the ruling applies to only the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois—the plaintiff in the case—or statewide, said Josh Sharp, director of governmental affairs for the Illinois Press Association.

“If you want to get technical about it, yesterday’s ruling applied to only the ACLU in Cook County,” Sharp said. “Right now, it does not go as far as our bill does, and right now we still plan on pursuing Senate Bill 1808.”

The ACLU, which runs a police accountability program, requested a court order to keep its monitors from being arrested for recording police, according to the ruling.

Laimutis Nargelenas, a lobbyist for the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, said law enforcement groups are looking to the attorney general’s office for guidance on the issue.  He also wants to know if there will be an appeal.

“This is going to be interesting. Where do we go from here?” Nargelenas said.

The attorney general’s office is reviewing the court decision “to determine the broader impact it may have statewide, outside of Cook County,” said Maura Possley, the office’s deputy press secretary.

“We would assume state’s attorneys throughout the state are doing the same,” she said.

The 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago is the third court to have ruled that Illlinois’ eavesdropping statute is unconstitutional.

David Thomas can be reached at (217) 782-6292.