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Eavesdropping Law Ruled Unconstitutional
The Illinois eavesdropping law has been in place since 1961. Now, five decades later, the law is changing after a woman charged with illegally recording a phone call took her case to court.
With changes in technology, and cameras just about everywhere, the Supreme Court says the law was too broad.
Under the Illinois Eavesdropping Law, it was a felony for someone to record a conversation without consent from everyone involved: something lawyers say is nearly impossible to enforce.
"Tape record with a phone, what's going on an accident scene when police officers do whatever they do. That was illegal," said lawyer Don Craven.
It may have been illegal, but people were rarely charged. When one women recorded a phone conversation with a public official, she spent two years in prison. Her case helped the state Supreme Court rule the law constitutional. Now, state legislators must write a new law.
"I think when I am having a private conversation with someone--a therapist, my husband--I have an expectation that the conversation is going to be private," said State Representative Elaine Nekritz.
Nekritz was opposed to portions of the previous law since it banned the recording of police.
She says creating a new law, with today's technology in mind, won't come easy.
"I think it's going to be really challenging to draw a balance and be able to draft the kind of legislation that will be tight enough to protect people's privacy rights," said Nekrtiz.
While the Supreme Court didn't put legislators under a deadline, Dr. Kent Redfield, a political science professor at UIS, says lawmakers would be wise to take action soon.
"Until the law is fixed, you really could have someone recording a phone conversation with another person and the other person would be totally unaware of that taking place," said Redfield.
Don Craven, the lawyer we spoke with, represents media members who record people on a daily basis. Craven says in his more than 20 years, he never was presented with an eavesdropping case.