Lawmakers passed a bill that clarifies the recording of private conversations in Illinois, but the measure does not ban recordings of interactions with on-duty police officers.
The Illinois Supreme Court struck down a previous law in March that legally barred the recording of conversations without the consent of all parties – which essentially prohibited recordings of police encounters without the officer’s permission.
The new legislation, which was sponsored by Democratic Sen. Kwame Raoul and Elaine Nekritz, is intended to protect against clandestine recordings of conversations without violating others’ rights to free expression.
Nekritz said the bill restores Illinois, one of about a dozen states that require “two-party consent” to record conversations, to a standard requiring participants in private conversations to consent to such recordings.
The American Civil Liberties Union praised some elements of the legislation, saying it protected private conversations while allowing for the recordings of police officers while on duty.
“We cannot be arrested or prosecuted under the new statute for recording on-duty government officials who are talking to the public as part of their jobs, because those conversations are not private,” the state’s ACLU chapter said in a statement. “The new statute respects the appellate court ruling in the case the ACLU brought against the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office: on-duty police officers have no reasonable expectation of privacy in their conversations in public places.”
The measure has attracted criticism from liberals, who warn that the bill expands police authority to eavesdrop on conversations, and from conservatives who wanted more clarification on the use of police body cameras.
The ACLU objected to a provision that allows police to secretly record conversations for 24 hours, with permission from the state’s attorney, during investigations of serious crimes such as murder, kidnapping, and some types of sexual assault.
“We know of no evidence that the prior version of the statute, which required police to seek judicial approval, was any impediment to law enforcement in these instances,” the ACLU in a statement. “We are concerned about the expanded number of cases where no judicial officer will provide a check on police.”
Nekritz admitted the expansion of eligible crimes under the statute was a trade-off for pother protections of private conversations.
Prosecutors said they were not completely satisfied with the measure, which the ACLU opposes based on the eavesdropping amendment, saying they would prefer Illinois adopt the “one-party consent” used under federal law and in 38 states.
Updated Dec. 10 at 6:36 a.m. to include ACLU statement on the new legislation with respect to the appellate court ruling.