On Dec. 2, Chris Drew, a local street artist, was arrested for selling art without a peddler's license at State and Washington, a prohibited art selling area, which are both misdemeanor offenses, according to an article from Community Media Workshop.
After being held overnight, Drew was also charged with violating Illinois' eavesdropping law from recording his own arrest. According to the Community Media Workshop article, Adam Schwartz, an attorney for the ACLU of Illinois said, "The right to collect information on government activities is covered by the First Amendment right to petition for the redress of grievances."
The Columbia Chronicle also featured a great interview with Schwartz weighing in on a civilian's ability to "check" police by the use of audio tape:
Adam Schwartz, an attorney for the ACLU agrees that the right to observe police officers is incredibly important to the citizens of Illinois.
"Most police officers are doing a hard job in a professional and ethical manner, but some police officers break the law and some communities have responded by recording police actions," Schwartz said. "The First Amendment includes the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances, that includes the right to observe and document how the government is acting toward its citizens."
According to Schwartz, the Illinois law is rare in the United States because of its breadth. The criminal code of 1961, under Article 14 Eavesdropping, makes the audio recording of any conversation illegal and it goes on: "the term conversation means any oral communication between two or more persons regardless of whether one or more of the parties intended their communication to be of a private nature under circumstances justifying that expectation."
It is that broad definition of conversation that makes the Illinois law unconstitutional according to Schwartz.
"When a police officer is in a public place having a conversation with a person, especially if that person is being detained or has been arrested, there is no privacy interest in that case," Schwartz said. "There is no public benefit to stopping civilians from audio taping police civilian interaction."