While most states have laws against secretly taping telephone calls or invading people’s privacy, Illinois’ law is particularly harsh. 1 It is a felony punishable by up to fifteen years in prison to tape or listen to a conversation without the consent of all parties to the conversation.
Well its not nice to listen in to a conversation but fifteen years?
Michael Allison fixed old cars in his front yard. This violated a city ordinance. He claimed the police were harassing him by seizing the cars and making him pay fines to have them returned. He secretly taped his conversation with the police. He was cited for violating the ordinance. At the arraignment he requested a court reporter. His request was denied. He said he would tape it himself. When he showed up for trial, the judge asked him if he was taping the proceedings. He said yes and the judge had him immediately arrested for violating the privacy law. When the tape was examined there were four conversations with officers on the tape. He was charged with five counts of violating the privacy act. The maximum sentence would have been 75 years.
The court found the act unconstitutional as applied. 2 the Court ruled that Allison had a First Amendment right to record the police officers 3 and the court employees. While it may be okay to prohibit the court proceedings 4 making it a felony was overreaching.
- The idea for this article came from the list serve of the Demonstrations Committee of the San Francisco chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. ↩
- When an act is “unconstitutional as applied” it means that that act may not be unconstitutional in all instances but in relation to the facts of the case it is unconstitutional. ↩
- Can you imagine attempting to apply this act to Rodney King or Oscar Grant. ↩
- The usual reason for this is to get only one official record but in this case there was no court reporter so the reason seems to disappear. ↩