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Pros and Cons of the New Eavesdropping Law

The major change to the Illinois Eavesdropping Law is that individuals can now record public conversations without obtaining consent from all parties involved. This includes allowing individuals to record police officers during traffic stops and arrests without fear of being charged with the separate offense of eavesdropping. However, it is still illegal to record conversations with individuals who have a "reasonable expectation of privacy" in that conversation. But what does that mean exactly and how do you know if the person you are communicating with expects the conversation to remain private?

As you can see, although the new law paves the way for police accountability, some of its language will likely be at the forefront of future litigation. (The meaning of the below bold terms will likely require court interpretation).

"(a) A person commits eavesdropping when he or she knowingly and intentionally:
  • (1) Uses an eavesdropping device, in a surreptitious manner, for the purpose of overhearing, transmitting, or recording all or any part of any private conversation to which he or she is not a party unless he or she does so with the consent of all of the parties to the private conversation;
  • (2) Uses an eavesdropping device, in a surreptitious manner, for the purpose of transmitting or recording all or any part of any private conversation to which he or she is a party unless he or she does so with the consent of all other parties to the private conversation;
  • (3) Intercepts, records, or transcribes, in a surreptitious manner, any private electronic communication to which he or she is not a party unless he or she does so with the consent of all parties to the private electronic communication;
  • (4) Manufactures, assembles, distributes, or possesses any electronic, mechanical, eavesdropping, or other device knowing that or having reason to know that the design of the
  • device renders it primarily useful for the purpose of the surreptitious overhearing, transmitting, or recording of private conversations or the interception, or transcription of private electronic communications and the intended or actual use of the device is contrary to the provisions of this Article; or
  • (5) Uses or discloses any information which he or she knows or reasonably should know was obtained from a private conversation or private electronic communication in violation of this Article, unless he or she does so with the consent of all of the parties." 720 ILCS 5/14-2(a).

Another change is that eavesdropping on law enforcement officials used to be a Class 1 felony and now is a Class 3 felony. A violation of eavesdropping against a fellow citizen remains a Class 4 felony.

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