* A Cook County judge ruled the state’s eavesdropping law is unconstitutional today. It’s just a lower court judge, but that makes two judges in six months who’ve ruled the same way. Another woman charged with a felony was recently acquitted. From the Tribune…
The law makes it a felony offense to make audio recordings of police officers without their consent even when they’re performing their public duties.
Judge Stanley Sacks, who is assigned to the Criminal Courts Building, found the eavesdropping law unconstitutional because it potentially criminalizes “wholly innocent conduct.”
Somebody once tape recorded a private conversation he had with me. I was furious, pointed to the felony penalties and the tape was quickly destroyed. Recording completely private conversations is one thing. Recording a police officer in a public setting engaged in a public duty seems legit to me. The state already prohibits people from interfering with the police. There are reasonable limits on what can and can’t be done, but slapping somebody with a felony is extreme beyond belief.
* A little background on the defendant Chris Drew…
Chris originally set out to challenge a 1994 Chicago Ordinance which equates artists as non-speech peddlers. As Chris puts it, “Art is Speech” which is not the same as selling socks or watches. Prior to this ordinance, artists could be found selling their art in downtown. The legendary Lee Godie, a naïve artist, would sell drawing and painting in front of the Art Institute in the 80s, as other artists would be seen around downtown as well. Not so today.
For a period of about a year, I documented Chris on his journey, as he and UM-CAC artists distributed art patches in downtown Chicago. Sometimes for free, sometimes for donation, and also selling them for $1.
On Dec. 2, 2009, Chris was selling art patches, for $1, as part of the FREE SAM, (Free Speech Artists Movement) He was arrested for peddling without a license, and peddling in a prohibited district. But the shocker came when at the police station, an officer found a small personal tape recorder in his red cape. The charge of Class 1 Felony Eavesdropping was added, with a bond of $20,000. At his first court appearance the misdemeanor charges of selling art in public without a peddlers license and in an area prohibited by the peddlers license were dropped. To the surprise of many, including Chris, there is a law in Illinois which appears to cover a person audio recording their own arrest. Others have been charged under this law as well.