Illinois House OK's modernizing eavesdropping law


SPRINGFIELD -- The Illinois House voted 71-45 Tuesday to allow civilians to make audio recordings of police officers exercising their public duties in public places.

Senate Bill 1808 would create a new exemption in Illinois’ eavesdropping statute, which now allows a penalty of up to 15 years in prison for people who record police officers without their consent.

In an effort to appease law enforcement opposition, the bill’s chief House sponsor, Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, added a provision that would make it a crime to edit the recording of a police officer if it was submitted as evidence of wrongdoing.

Nekritz and other supporters said it is time to modernize state law.

“This bill does not create any new rights. It decriminalizes behavior that citizens engage in every day,” Nekritz said.

Other lawmakers wanted to go a step forward. Rep. Dennis Reboletti, R-Elmhurst, said the answer would be to go to one-party consent—in which recording would be permissible if only one person in a conversation constents. Illinois law requires the consent of everyone involved.

The bill now goes back to the Senate, which has approved a different version of the bill. But the law’s days might be numbered without legislative action anyway. To date, two state judges and one federal judge have ruled that the statute is unconstitutional.

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