In Illinois, recording on-duty police officers is illegal. Illustrated in a recent court case involving Christopher Drew–charged with a Class I felony for violating the state’s eavesdropping statute–a Cook County judge rejected request for dismissal.
Drew recorded his encounter with CPD officers in December, and if found guilty, could face from 4 to 15 years in prison. This, because Illinois law stipulates that it is illegal to make audio recordings of on-duty police officers. A law that stands despite police misconduct caught on audio and video every year.
According to Radley Balko, a senior editor at the libertarian journal Reason, Illinois is one of few states requiring consent from all parties before a conversation can be recorded. However, other states with similar laws include provisions that recorded parties have an expectation of privacy in order to instigate legal action. On-duty officers-at work in the public-have no right to expect privacy while working in the public eye.
Balko goes on that Illinois law did have a provision at one time, but it was removed in 1994, ”in response to an incident in which a citizen recorded his interaction with two on-duty police officers.” Illinois lawmakers specifically intended to keep the public from recording officers without permission.
Although the law in unconstitutional, it remains in effect; no one wants to go to jail for 15-years over making a recording. Balko found that while several cases show charges, there weren’t any that led to conviction. Illinois authorities can record their contact with the public, and also have the right to jail those who record them, and confiscate recordings.