It's not a crime to record cops, Supreme Court decides

Chicago Tribune

The U.S. Supreme Court Monday left in place a lower court ruling that prevented Illinois from prosecuting people under its Eavesdropping Act if they recorded police officers. A federal appeals court ruled the statute “likely violates” First Amendment rights.



Alissa Groeninger sketched out the law's peculiarities earlier this year:

In Illinois, citizens used to whipping out a cellphone and recording almost anything at any time are confronted by peculiar circumstances if they record police. People can legally record video — but not audio — of law enforcement officers on duty. Get found guilty and face a prison term of up to 15 years, though judges and juries have been reluctant to convict people charged with recording audio of police.

The ACLU was pleased with the ruling:

The ACLU of Illinois continues to believe that in order to make the rights of free expression and petition effective, individuals and organizations must be able to freely gather and record information about the conduct of government and their agents – especially the police.  The advent and widespread accessibility of new technologies make the recording and dissemination of pictures and sound inexpensive, efficient and easy to accomplish.

Related: Miami photographer found not guilty of resisting arrest after videotaping police | Photojournalist sues cop, Suffolk County, N.Y., over right to videotape police | Memphis police delete pictures from photographer's phone (ABC 24) | How journalists can protect themselves & the news they’ve gathered if arrested on the job

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.

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