Explaining the New Eavesdropping Law in Illinois

Illinois recently passed a bill called SB 1342, but it is more commonly being referred to as the new Eavesdropping Law.

There has been a lot of speculation and misinformation about this bill, with some saying it’s now illegal to film the police while others are claiming it gives the police too much power to eavesdrop on citizens. Today, we break down some key points of the Eavesdropping Law so everyone can get a better understanding of the actual regulations.

Eavesdropping Law

1. You Can Still Record The Police

Simply put, you can still record the police, you just aren’t allowed to eavesdrop on them. The law states that citizens may record an interaction so long as the involved parties don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy. For example, if you see a police officer arresting a resisting suspect on the sidewalk, you are more than welcome to record the ordeal. If you are pulled over for speeding, you can certainly record the interaction with the cop. On the other hand, you’re not allowed to wiretap a phone or a squad car and collect information between parties who have a reasonable expectation of privacy, like in their home or office. Most times, police conduct their duties in the public sphere, so you are well within your right to record them.

2. Eavesdropping Penalties Lowered

Prior to this law, illegally recording a law enforcement officer or judicial official was met with a Class 1 felony. Under the new legislation, it’s still a felony to illegally record officers and judges, but the penalty has been reduced to a Class 3 felony.

3. Police Have More Leeway To Eavesdrop

This point may sound disconcerting, but the ability to eavesdrop on a conversation where a person could reasonable expect privacy only applies if the person in question is suspected of committing one of the following offenses: first degree murder, solicitation of murder for hire, predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, criminal sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual assault, aggravated arson, kidnapping, aggravated kidnapping, child abduction, trafficking in persons, involuntary servitude, involuntary sexual servitude of a minor, or gunrunning.

Prior to SB 1342, police needed to obtain a warrant “within 48 hours of the commencement of such use.” If they didn’t get the warrant within two days they had to stop attempting to eavesdrop without consent. Now, they can continue without a warrant after 48 hours.

4. Reasonable, Reasonable, Reasonable

As we mentioned in the first point, the whole bill hinges on the term “reasonable” expectation of privacy. There are limitless situations where one party may wish to record an interaction, so there’s no possible way to have a cut and dry law where everything either is or isn’t legal. For example, you may have a reasonable expectation of privacy in your home, but if the police come busting in, you are certainly welcome to record them without asking for their permission.

So if you see something and want to record it, ask yourself this question. “Would the involved parties have a reasonable expectation of privacy?” This is very different from the question, “If I were in their shoes, would I want to be recorded?” The cop may not want his use of excessive force recorded or the shoplifter may not like that his pants fell down to his ankles while running away because he forgot a belt, but if it happens in the public domain, you are well within your rights to record the interaction.

If you have any questions about the bill, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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