This past week, both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly passed a measure that closes loopholes in Illinois' eavesdropping law, the Associated Press reports. The ACLU of Illinois has a history of fighting for the First Amendment right to make an audio recording of public officials performing a public duty in a public place -- in ACLU v. Alvarez-- which had been illegal under what had been the strictest eavesdropping law in the country. In 2012, an appellate court ruled to allow the recording of public officials for ACLU purposes. Then in January, the eavesdropping law went to trial before the Illinois Supreme Court, which ruled the whole of the law to be unconstitutional. The bill clarifies any remaining ambiguity in the current eavesdropping law by restoring two-party consent, but also exempts police from having to obtain a warrant prior to eavesdropping for certain types of crimes:
The American Civil Liberties Union praised the legislation for restoring private-conversation protections and for making it legal to record police officers while on duty – a point of contention that helped fuel the eavesdrop debate during the May 2012 NATO summit in Chicago, which drew throngs of protesters.
But it objected to an expansion of the kinds of investigations in which police may eavesdrop without a warrant – at least initially. The bill allows police – with only permission from the state’s attorney – to surreptitiously record conversations for 24 hours when investigating such serious crimes as murder, the most heinous sexual assaults, kidnapping, human trafficking and others.
That, ACLU spokesman Ed Yohnka said, is “the kind of unchecked police authority that we’ve always resisted in this country.” When citizens allow such intrusion, it’s typically been only after approval by an impartial judge.