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 Illinois judge rules state eavesdropping law unconstitutional

By Muriel Kane
Raw Story

...As explained by the Chicago Tribune’s Megan Crepeau, “The whole thing hinges on the idea that police officers have an expectation of privacy as they perform a public, taxpayer-funded duty. This law, in effect, punishes the public for holding its officials accountable to a public standard. The original intent — to protect private conversations from being recorded — has nothing to do with that.”

The decision came in the case of an artist named Christopher Drew, who was arrested in December 2009 for selling art without a permit. According to Kevin Gosztola at FireDogLake, “Drew, who has a history of challenging the city’s restrictions on the selling of art, was peddling silk-screened patches for $1 in an act of civil disobedience. A First Amendment lawyer and a team of photographers filmed his arrest. The police let the filming go, and Drew was arrested. When it was time for Drew to face his charges, he found out he had been given a Class 1 felony charge for violating the Illinois Eavesdropping Act and filming his arrest. This meant he faced a possible sentence of fifteen years in prison.”

Gosztola notes that Chicago police have traditionally viewed the eavesdropping law as a convenient way to avoid lawsuits for police misconduct. “Police are known to enforce the law themselves,” he comments. “In the final days of January, Occupy Chicago was out protesting in the city when a police officer took a camera from someone who was live streaming the action and deleted the video. He told the live streamer, Keilah, that she could have been charged with a felony.”

Gostola concludes that police may still attempt to arrest protesters under the law but that “any such charges are unlikely to stick.”

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