Man faces 75 years for recording police

42-year-old Michael Allison of Illinois could spend the rest of his life in prison for recording police in public. He faces five counts of eavesdropping, a class one felony. Of course, the police are allowed to video people in public with impunity.

The Illinois Assistant Attorney General has joined the case and told the judge that citizens do not have the constitutional right to record police.

Illinois Man Faces 75 Years In Prison For Recording Cops

See also: Federal Court: recording cops an unambiguous first amendment right


    1. The recent decision to which you’re referring was issued by the federal Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (Maine, Mass., Rhode Island, and New Hampshire).  It is a major victory on this issue.  But it does not control in Illinois (which is part of the Seventh Circuit federal circuit).  No doubt the First Circuit opinion will be cited by the Illinois citizen’s attorneys as strongly persuasive authority; but, again, it does not invalidate all such state laws.
      This Illinois lawsuit is actually a good thing though because it means that additional federal courts will begin weighing in on this issue, and sooner, rather than later, one of two things will happen:  either (a) federal courts, all across the country, will all coalesce around the idea that citizens have a constituationally protected right to video record the police, or (b) the federal courts will disagree with each other (a “circuit split”), in which case the U.S. Supreme Court is all the more likely to weigh in with a definitive (and nationally applicable) opinion sooner.

    2. No, it doesn’t.  That ruling applies only to the 1st Circuit – Maine, Massachusett, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.  If this goes to court in Illinois, which is in the 7th Circuit, it can be used in the argument, but the ruling is not binding.  The 7th would have to rule the same or, better yet, the Supreme Court.

    3. uh, no. Law has circuits, and the rules apply to a specific circuit court’s jurisdiction (unless it’s supreme court). Thus, the ruling is for the circuit massachusetts is a part of (and this is in illinois). 
      massachusetts = 10, illinois = 7 or 9 I think?

  1. Seriously. Just move to have it dismissed with prejudice and bring up that ruling. This kind of bullshit shouldn’t happen.

  2. So they confiscated this guys cars from his property because they weren’t properly registered and then charged him with 5 felonies for recording the subsequent proceedings? I’m really not sure this type of thuggery will stop until a major judgement (in the millions of $) against a police department is reached.

    1. No. It won’t stop anything, because the payment will be disbursed by the TAXPAYERS.

      Not until individual police officers and chain of command are held PERSONALLY civilly and criminally liable will we see any change. 

      If a police officer arrests someone for violating an unjust law, they should be held guilty of kidnapping and sent to jail for 10-20. That would slow down the enforcement of bullshit laws, just the chance of that happening.

      Don’t want to be sued for busting someone’s head? A) Don’t bust their head B) don’t become a police officer. There are plenty of people looking for that steady paycheck and luxurious benefits…

  3. As a Brit I don’t usually comment on US laws and so on but this is insane. How can filming something happening in public ever be considered illegal? So I saw an incident happen and can complain that a cop was abusive etc but if I film it for better evidence I’m a criminal? A law that purely protects abuses of power rather than the people. Insane.

    1. Likewise, if I have a photographic memory AND witness a police action of any kind, I could go to jail for the rest of my life?

      Thank you Mr. Allison for standing up to an abusive law!

      1. exactly this. this is also why recording public underground stations is stupid. if there are terrorists with photographic memory we are also fucked!

      2. Likewise, if I have a photographic memory AND witness a police action of any kind, I could go to jail for the rest of my life?

        If you just keep your eyes down-turned in an appropriately reverential attitude all the time you should be OK. Really, that’s all they want.

    2. I agree, it’s a bit ludicrous.

      On the other hand, the current round of riots notwithstanding, you don’t find that the UK has become over-policed and over-monitored in the last decade?  Try taking a photo anywhere close to a public place…

    3. Living in the UK I used to be amazed at some of your crazy laws but this idiocy makes me ashamed for America, that our people can become so cowed as to allow this. 

    4. ” A law that purely protects abuses of power rather than the people.”

      I’m fairly certain that’s been the purpose of laws and governments since they were invented.  I think it’s why they were invented.

    5. I hate to break it to you as a fellow Brit, but there’s already a law in the UK covering filming/photography of police officers. They can arrest you under Section 76 of the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008.

      1. they can use it as grounds for an arrest but you will never face jail time or be charged, so it differs from these specific laws in this US state. but yes Andrew that act does get abused here.

  4. @google-3721547bb30526ca2c7b09b72b2238eb:disqus The press has broader immunity under the first amendment than private citizens do. Your argument is not germane.@boingboing-4d7dd2d92f7b44b057d2601f449f50c9:disqus The Glik decision (cited above) is a precedent, but is in a different circuit, and makes specific reference to the “secrecy” statute in MA state law. The police in Glik argued that eavesdropping attached because the cell phone used to record them was “secret” to them as they didn’t notice it. But Glik’s attorneys rightly argued that holding a cell phone out in front of your face on Boston Common hardly constitutes a secret recording device. From what I am reading in another IL case ( ), the accused actually did hide a recording device on his person for the intent of secretly recording his arrest. I have not read the IL statutes, but that could be a reason for the prosecutors to continue this, despite Glik.

    1. From the citemedialw post on the 1st circuit ruling:
      > The Court also rejected any distinction of those cases based upon the
      > fact that Glik was not a reporter, holding that “[t]he First Amendment
      > right to gather news is, as the Court has often
      > noted, not one that inures solely to the benefit of the news media”
      > and noting the importance of  citizen journalists

    2. No, the press does not have “broader immunity”. The First Amendment does not grant “immunity” from police to citizen. It simply recognizes a natural right which belongs to all human beings, and sharply circumscribes the ability of the government to interfere with the exercise of that right. The press is anyone who acts as the press and when corporate journalists argue otherwise it nothing more than an attempt to deny everyone else’s rights while attempting to secure a monopoly for themselves.

    3. No, the press does NOT have broader immunity under the first amendment. The first amendment applies equally to all citizens, regardless of whether or not they work for a news agency. Press shield laws may apply differently, but they are different than the first amendment.

    4. “The press has broader immunity under the first amendment than private citizens do.”

      The First Circuit disagrees with you: “The First Amendment right to gather news is, as the Court has often noted, not one that inures solely to the benefit of the news media; rather, the public’s right of access to information is coextensive with that of the press. ”

    1. Begin? The government has been eavesdropping on phone calls and ‘net chatter since (or before) 9/11. At very minimum we’ve been a police state for a decade. 

    1. Yes because this sort of things doesn’t happen anywhere else.

      It’s bullshit. It is rare, but more common than it should be. Thankfully as these cases reach the Federal level it appears they are bitch slapping the cops.

       Ironically, there have been programs proposed where cops wear cameras while on duty. I think there is a reality show that uses them.

    2. 1) Illinois is the only state that makes it illegal to record police.  It’s legal in all other states.

      2) The Illinois law in question is most likely constitutional, and will likely not survive this episode.  Unfortunately, given the slow pace of the appeals system, it may be another four or five years before this is ultimately settled.

      3) Given that the US protects freedom of speech to a higher degree than any other country, you are much more likely to be arrested for speaking your mind than a US citizen is.

  5. The actual Illinois Eavesdropping Statute may be found here . The reporting in this case is not really precise about what is and is not violated in this law, however the general gist is correct. I would think that the key to unlocking this is that there is no good way for a person to give limited consent to eavesdropping. Law students in Illinois have no great love of this statute, especially in Crim. Law tests.

    1. Law students in Illinois know that it is against the law to record class lectures unless everyone in the class expressly grants permission.

  6. You do realize Chicago, and thus in part Illinois, is a third world country (unlike actually alot of the USA). If you want to know why this happens take a look at the the role of controlling violence (including shame etc) in politics. Barry Weingast has a great talk on Econtalk called Weingast on Violence, Power and a Theory of Nearly Everything – it should explain Illinois politics and laws well. It is found here (and has a transcript) .

  7. @google-71762366f7ad0ddadb743166d746c1ff:disqus “The press has broader immunity under the first amendment than private citizens do.” Citation, please? I have never heard of such a thing.”Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;…”  

    1. Channel 10, Inc. v. Gunnarson, (D. Minn. 1972)  — police interference with television newsman’s  filming  of  crime scene  and  seizure  of  video  camera constitutes unlawful prior restraint)

      Smith  v.  City  of  Cumming, (11th  Cir.  2000) — The  First Amendment  protects the right  to  record  matters  of  public  interest.

      Iacobucci v. Boulter, (1st Cir. 1999) — Fourth Amendment case turned on First Amendment right to film public officials.

      1. I don’t see where your citations actually answer the question. They support the rights of journalists to record the acts of public officials, but the statement being questioned was not that they had such rights, but that they have *more* rights in this regard than private citizens.

        1. And I would argue that a number of courts in many districts have supported the First Amendment right -of the press- to gather news via recording, hence the citations. There is much less case law on the First Amendment rights of private citizens to do this. If the guy above worked for the Tribune and was doing a story on cops impounding cars for dubious reasons, I doubt the case would have been brought. 

          Mind you, this whole discussion stems from someone saying the press filming a car chase from a helicopter is the same thing as a guy filming cops from his porch.

          1. Who is the press? There are a couple of centuries of case law that citizen journalists enjoy the freedom of the press just as much as Washington Post or New York Times reporters. The freedom of the press belongs to anyone who owns one. In the electronic age, that’s virtually everybody.

          2. I agree. The question is, /is this news/? Citizen journalists have the right to record matters of public interest. One issue at question here is whether or not getting your unregistred cars impounded is a matter of public interest. I would argue it’s not. So we have to go to another test–do citizens have the right to (secretly) record public officials in the course of their duties? That’s what’s being argued about here.

          3. I turn it around again. You earlier said, “If the guy above worked for the Tribune and was doing a story on cops
            impounding cars for dubious reasons, I doubt the case would have been
            brought.” So you are arguing that the Tribune enjoys freedom that a private citizen-journalist does not. Please state where the line is to be drawn. I draw it at, “if the Tribune can do it lawfully, so can Jane Q. Public.”

          4. That isn’t what he was saying at all. The question is under the LAW is the average Joe with a camcorder, video recorder or cell phone actually a JOURNALIST by the standards presented in law precedence. The standing S.C. line is “is this news”… and there are open standards for that in case law. That isn’t the same thing you are saying, which is anyone with a recording device is now a news reporter and “anything they record is news worthy”. I am sure someone out there records their bowl movements… but just because they DO it doesn’t necessarily make it news worthy. Of course that is a slippery slope… but that is where the line is drawn right now. If you want that to change you have to push for it. 

          5. First Circuit in regards to the Glik case
            “[C]hanges in technology and society have made the lines between private
            citizen and journalist exceedingly difficult to draw.  The proliferation
            of electronic devices with video-recording capability means that many
            of our images of current events come from bystanders with a ready cell
            phone or digital camera rather than a traditional film crew, and news
            stories are now just as likely to be broken by a blogger at her computer
            as a reporter at a major newspaper.  Such developments make clear why
            the news-gathering protections of the First Amendment cannot turn on
            professional credentials or status.”


            “[I]s there a constitutionally protected right to videotape police
            carrying out their duties in public?  Basic First Amendment principles,
            along with case law from this and other circuits, answer that question
            unambiguously in the affirmative.”

          6. Do they have the potential to aggregate it to a mass audience? Is there reasonable evidence that they might want to do so? 

            Then yes, they are a journalist. This would include virtually all cases of recording public officials, because what public officials do is by definition newsworthy.

            Unless their name is Julian Assange, then – not a journalist.

          7. If they don’t, what is the meaning of the term ‘public officials?’

            As the cameras all around Chicago will attest, the public officials claim to have all the rights in the world to record the citizens.

            There is nothing more dangerous than this idea that there are two classes of people in society, and certain actions are criminal or not depending on what class you belong to.

          8. The phrase “the press” in the First Amendment doesn’t even refer to journalists (a profession that barely existed in 1789), but to the means of publication. The fact that that phrase later came to also refer to journalists doesn’t alter the fact.

            So this whole distinction between professional and citizen journalists is just a made-up thing. Whether you made it up, or simply got it from other people who made it up, I couldn’t say.

          9. No need to go to the man. I am card carrying member of the ACLU–I am on the citizen’s side here. My comments here are just to flesh out the story a little from the “It’s exactly like News 7 helicopters” rhetoric at the top of the comments. It’s not exactly like that at all. I am not the one that has drawn a distinction between press and private citizens–the courts have. And I would think it’s because only the press has bothered to sue in the past about this kind of infringement. Except in the rare case like Glik, the courts have been very circumspect in regard to the wording of their decisions about recording of public officials–limiting it largely to the newspaper, news station, or journalist at hand. @google-1be80b6e32821bb03a1dbfc2af4682d1:disqus is making this point below–the news guys have better attorneys. It’s just not as simple as people think to extend the Glik decision to everyone else in the whole country, both because of jurisdiction, and because of the facts in the case.

            I think this kind of statute is _dumb_. Police have a very difficult job, and it requires a particular set of skills. Police that don’t possess those skills tend to be a little quick with the taser, a little quick with the racial epithets, a little quick with the killing of others. Whether it be recording, internal affairs, commissions, &.; it’s important that people in power not be given the protection of law to abuse that power. 

            The separate class of citizens this article should make commentors fume about is not the press, which is separate only de facto because of prior cases, but the police–which are separate de jure because of dumb laws like this.  

          10. If the guy worked for the Tribune, he’d have more access to corporate lawyers than the average citizen.  *That’s* why a case wouldn’t be brought.  (Note that the police would still rough up a reporter, but the DA would bounce him)

    1. How on god’s green earth is that a *felony*? Or I guess, WHY?

      The law was intended to deal with things like crime syndicates bugging police phones to eavesdrop on official investigations, so in that context it makes sense. How it has been applied of late is nothing short of insanity.

      1. So the law is written vaguely enough so that it applies? Or is this particular case kind of stretching it? I tried to watch the video, but I just got depressed. I have to go find a lolcat chaser, or something.

        1. So the law is written vaguely enough so that it applies?

          The Illinois Attorney General apparently thinks so, others disagree. I guess the courts will have the final say on that question.

  8. 75 years is probably too long for recording the police, but just about right for recording some of sting’s solo efforts.

    1. What is wrong with you americans?

      Since WW2 Americans have become soft, fat, lazy, and scared. They are too stupid to realize that the police are using laws like this to intimidate honest citizens. Police operate where I live with impunity, and crossing one of them generally will end your career and your freedom. 

  9. A circuit split on this will be a disaster. We know which way the Supremes will vote, and it ain’t pretty.

  10. It would be nice to actually get a constitutional amendment to make this crystal clear. Something like: The state shall make no law to infringe on a person’s right to make and publish recordings in public places.

  11. Always find it hilarious when Americans are the first to jump to 1984 comparisons when it comes to the UK’s CCTV operations in inner cities, “Police state!” are the cries, “Poor Britons and their lack of freedom”. Atleast they can record police in public.

    From the Met Police website: “Members
    of the public and the media do not need a permit to film or photograph
    in public places and police have no power to stop them filming or
    photographing incidents or police personnel”

    1. I find it hilarious when you use a quote from one CITY police web site and act like it applied to the entire UK.  There are parts of America that don’t have their heads up their asses when it comes to recording cops.  There are probably parts of the UK that are idiots about it, too.

      1. The UK is not a country made up of federal states where different laws apply depending on what county or ‘state’ you’re in. Scotland has Scots law and England and Wales share the same common laws too based on parliament. It’s not illegal to film any police or public figure anywhere, no matter where you are, as long as you are not interfering with a police investigation or their duty. Do you honestly think laws are different in say, essex than in yorkshire? You can certainly be stopped and arrested, but not convicted by a court and sent to prison. Oh and the EU court in Strasbourgbourg says it’s a fundamental right. So much for “freedom” United Statians.

  12. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. 

    That means, if the police video records you NOT doing anything illegal, they don’t have to use it. THEIR JOB IS TO FIND YOU GUILTY! They don’t want your unedited film disproving their possibly edited film. 

    Finally, it sounds like he informed the Judge before his trial that he was recording it, did I hear that right? So what’s the big deal?

  13. Stuff like is why I want Ron Paul to be President. The USA needs a serious change in attitude when it comes to gov’t.

    1. Ron Paul: “I don’t accept the theory of evolution”

      Just what we need… Another politician with his head in the sand.

      1. Just what we need… Another politician with his head in the sand.

        “The sand”? I’ve never heard that as a euphemism for a body part before.

    2. Ron Paul wouldn’t let the state imprison you for making public recordings.  Ron Paul would, however, probably let churches and corporations imprison you just about anything they want.

      Real libertarians are opposed to all oppressive hierarchies, not just the government.

      1. No, he wouldn’t.  This is a complete misstatement of Ron Paul’s beliefs and the beliefs of similar libertarians.

        But don’t let your ignorance stop you from making an ass of yourself.

  14. And some people wonder why there is massive distrust of police.  This is vile.  Anyone who would allow such a vile law to exist should be run out of office.  Any official that would choose to try and prosecute such a wretched law should be fired.  Any jury that would convict one of their fellow citizens for violating such a law should be cursed to never have a peaceful night of sleep again.

    1. The LAW is fine, the interpretation of the law is the vile thing here. The police are taking a statue designed to cover the unknown audio recordings over the phone and applying them to a completely different situation, technology and media. 

      The idea of the original law was to keep someone from calling up a police officer and having them make statements that might not be correct because the idea was that the AUDIO couldn’t be verified with seeing the person, or with their performance of duties. (Because cops aren’t on the phone with people while they’re arresting them.)

      So what they’ve done is find a clever application, since cell phones record audio. 

      That’s possibly MORE disgusting, because they’re stretching a valid protective measure to expand their powers and to strike out against the citizenry. 

  15. Anyone who supports a law prohibiting recording law enforcement in public is either a terrible person or someone incapable of thinking. 

  16. The Illinois AAG is an idiot.  No, that’s being charitable.  He is a shill for the Illinois Government Machine which is quickly sliding into fascism.  The people need to take back their state before voting against an incumbent becomes illegal.

  17. I have never, ever heard anyone actually argue that filming police should be illegal. I have no idea how they would go about it.

    I mean, I know *why* cops don’t want to be filmed (not just so they can shoot unarmed, restrained, unresisting fathers of two in the back)– it’s because the lawyers of the accused can try to use the recorded materials as evidence for dismissal, if the cop did *any* bit of procedure wrong.

    I just wanna hear someone *say* it and not look like a total rectum-hat.

  18. I think whenever a citizen meets a cop they will have to notify them.
    “I am duly obliged to notify you that our interaction may be recorded and that as a public offical executing a public function you may not decline to be recorded.”
    Hell every cop should be wearing a head cam to record their interation with the public as well and that recording to be stored on a read only server that can only be accessed but never tampered with, as much as you can prevent that.

  19. I have a question:   is “recording” regarded in the same way as “broadcasting”?  For example, if I had to transmit live video to UStream but never keep a copy of it.

  20. From the OED:

    1. New things; novelties. Obs.
    2. The report or account of recent (esp. important or interesting) events
    or occurrences, brought or coming to one as new information; new
    occurrences as a subject of report or talk; tidings.News is new stuff basically. So yes, this is news even if it wasn’t ‘newsworthy’ to begin with. After the fact it certainly is now. And so would people taking pics/vid of their doody (surely some people are interested in that and it would be new info to most). To this case, it’s news to me, and therefore I would conclude that it is indeed news by definition.Also this is so bull-doody. I hope the 7th circuit doesn’t screw this up.

  21. No one is going to jail for 75 years. Ron Paul can’t stop every dumbass AG from charging people with silly interpretations of laws. We are not anywhere close to a police state–suggestions otherwise diminish the pain and suffering of people who have lived or are living in a police state. And if you’re going to link to a news report, don’t do it through a lunatic like Mike Hanson.

    1. No, we don’t live in a police state – yet. But we do live in a surveillance state. We do live in a state with a vast imbalance of power. We do live in a state that could readily become a real life boots on your chin police state, all it would take is some national crisis and a state of emergency called. 

      And the ’75 years’ was not pulled out of a cloud or made up; that is the threat the prosecutors are hanging over this man’s head. The number comes from the prosecutor’s office. Even if he spends only 1 year in prison, it’s apalling.

  22. This event is not emblematic of the state of affairs in the US.  There are over 300,000,000 of us here in thousands of cities across 50 states and some territories and districts.  Lots of bad things happen and lots of good things happen.  It’s foolishness to pick any one of those things as your conclusive proof that the US is a bad or good place full of bad or good people.

    1. At what point do you think it would be appropriate for us to draw more general conclusions about the state of affairs in the U.S.? In other words, how bad do you think it will have to become before we say, “I guess it really is bad in the U.S.” Zimbabwe-levels of corruption and police impunity, or can we extrapolate sooner?

  23. In states where the laws are so draconian that they even label open recording of police as ‘wiretapping,’ is the answer to record the police secretly, and then release the video anonymously on the internet?

    I have questions about the mechanics of such anonymity, but is that theoretically the best possible response?

  24. The Illinois Assistant Attorney General, Anita Alvarez, needs her ass handed to her in court.  I hope she gets disbarred if that’s possible.  Disgusting.  What a nazi.
    (I know, Godwin’s Law… but I seriously think the nazi reference applies in this case.)

  25. Absolutely disgusting! The police state is going way over board. Sickening. Land of the free my ass. This will lead to revolution. War at home. Who ever enacted this law is a Marxist, communist, Hitler worshiper. Read my mind people.

    1. Sorry pal, I don’t really think you know what ‘Marxist’ or ‘communist’ really mean. FWIW, any form of government can go mad with power if the people don’t curb that tendency. Please don’t confuse a form of government with the inherent corruption that is possible in any system devised and enacted by humans.

      I am, in any case, all for a little revolution every now and then. Power to the people!

  26. I like your second idea a lot. The second would just give cover to arrest people ignorant of the statute, and claim it was their own fault.

    Really, all public officials should assume they are being recorded whenever they are on the clock.

  27. Not sure if Michael Harvey reads BoingBoing, but if you do sir, this would be some great fodder for another crime novel.

  28. very interesting find indeed. 
    i’m writing from germany, where we used to have some slight problems with fascistoid tendencies of the law enforcement agencies, too – in those unhappy days of yore, our version of your illinois police corps was called ‘gestapo’ – and if the technology had existed back then, i’m sure our public servants in their feces-colored uniforms would have taken great pains to insure that their antics not be recorded. as it was ‘chez nous’ some 70 years ago, people were arrested (and [optional: tried and] executed) for, e.g., shedding tears in public over fallen sons or husbands; the crime was called “zersetzung der wehrmacht” which roughly translates to sth like “undermining the fighting spirit of the armed forces”.it seems to me that during the last 2 presidencies your former “land of the free” has rapidly deteriorated towards a pretty sinister copy of our old nazi germany, albeit in it’s early stages. you all should be VERY aware of this.

  29. THe London street photography festival undertook to test the responses of police and security guards in the City of London by photographing in public.

    The police were helpful and knew the law.  The private security guards were threatening, dangerous and agressive and generally came across as unpleasant people. 
    So it looks like it is safe to photograph in public in the City anyway.  At least for now. 
    Someone posted in on the INspector Gadget blog, congratulating the police involved for being fine police as he remembered them from decades ago.  Interestingly several probably police posters agreed, but one or two others, including the site owner disagreed and complained about the waste of police time, Gadget going so far as to invoke the old “terrorist on recoannaissance” threat.  Which is pants, they’ve never arrested anyone for such a thing before, because catching anyone at it and proving it is pretty much impossible. 

  30. Only Cockroaches are afraid of the light. The PEOPLE of Illinois GET what the people of Illinois want. Corrupt cops and a police state. They should be ashamed to fly the American flag,

  31. WAKE UP PEOPLE , our rights are being stripped away while the government is selectively enforcing the law. I do not know about Illinois , in Florida we have a camera on every intersection to generate income from red light runners and I don’t remember signing a waiver to be recorded……How can a police officer that shot a man in the back only receive a 2 year sentence , and a guy wielding the camera not harming anyone gets 75 years. Not one of these public officials sees a problem with this?
    If the Police don’t do anything wrong they should have nothing to worry about ..Right ? 

  32. This guy is a true American hero. Putting the rest of his life on the line for other peoples freedoms is the most noble thing I can think of. Its appalling how this “free” country has become. Its difficult to see any positives to living in America.

  33. If LEO is on Public Tax Payer Funded Payroll, I suggest it would be derelict behavior for a citizen to fail to record and report any and All criminal activity.  It may not be expressly worded in the constitution, but it is every citizens societal responsibility to report criminal behavior regardless of Who is committing the act.

  34. The attorney general nor the prosecutor is at fault.  They are doing what they swore an oath to do–enforce the law.  The problem is that the law is bad.  The legislature enacted a poorly worded law.  They should correct that.

    The video mentioned that 12 other states outlaw recording of law enforcement officers without consent.  Which ones are they?

    1. The attorney general nor the prosecutor is at fault.  They are doing
      what they swore an oath to do–enforce the law.  The problem is that the
      law is bad.  The legislature enacted a poorly worded law.

      The AG’s interpretation of that law is not shared by all legal experts, and even if it was the law itself would present major issues of constitutionality (see linked article regarding Federal Court’s First Amendment ruling). In such cases it’s common to suspend enforcement until the legal issues can be sorted out through the courts.

    2. I hate this line of reasoning which extends qualified immunity where none exists. The oath they took was to the constitution and the laws made in Pursuance thereof. A law or more properly, a statute in violation of constitutional rights is not pursuant to the constitution, is therefore no law and compels no duty on any public officer to uphold it. The only defense left is the Nuremberg defense and it has been thoroughly discredited. The duty of a public official in this case instant is to declare no violation can occur where a right to act would be abridged otherwise. These people can think. It’s not the problem. Fealty to the spirit of the oath is the problem.

  35. To Compile to the law you have to film the video without audio, it’s the audio side of the filming that is illegal, you can take a picture or film someone without their permission but you must have their consent to record audio of them.

  36. So why is it that the cops can have dash and helmet cams that record video and audio, but that is legal for them to do so (without our permission) but not the general public?

  37. The IL AG is right.  Illinois subject only have the rights that government finds convenient at any one moment.  The instant a right proves to embarrass a State Official, the State will determine that the citizen really didn’t have that right, ever.  It is all about the State.  Got it? 

  38. Someone should tell these cameraphobes to stay indoors.  You do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy when out of doors.

  39. Part of the reason this frustrates me so much is the fact that I know of only one other group that hates being filmed as much as the police: criminals.

  40. First off, I’d like to say that the Illinois Attorney General is a douche for being a part of this farce.

    Second, how far does this law extend?  If the guy who is getting a video camera implanted in his artificial eye happens to watch the police, will they pry out his eyeball and charge him with a crime?  How do they define “recording”?  If you just stream the video live to a thousand people on the internet, some of whom might happen to record it, who gets charged with the crime?  The person holding the sensor, or the people writing the data to their hard drives?  If at some point in the future it becomes possible to extract images from the human mind, will you be forced to have a lobotomy if you accidentally watch a cop and remember it? 

    This whole thing is absurd.  Any sane, reasonable person would look at these laws and say they’re ridiculous in the extreme and should be modified or repealed immediately, so the only conclusion seems to me to be that the public officials involved _like_ the cops to be able to abuse and intimidate people and get away with it.

  41. Considering the ubiquity of camera phones, why not just have daily flash mobs recording outside this jackass police dept.  This would be over in a week. 

      1. Thanks Bryan, I rarely comment b/c it always felt like yelling into an abandoned well. 

        I’ve enjoyed (relished really) watching the use of social media in the Middle East to correct government infringement on human rights.  Why are we Americans scared to stand up for ourselves when the means are now in every 18-35 year old’s hand?  (we = I’m culpable as well)   I guess actions speak louder than blog comment sections.  Could you imagine the 60’s if present day technology was available back then?  Everyday would be Woodstock without the brown acid. (maybe not the best case scenario)

  42. @ Brainspore There are many many laws on the books that are without doubt unconstitutional here in ma there are old laws against blasphemy. No DA or AG would ever dream of prosecuting such a law as it is clearly unconstitutional. They law they are “just enforcing” is such a law especially with the interpretation they are giving it. Aside from the many other obvious constitutional issues. The equal protection clause under the fourteenth amendment is clearly violated when the cops can record and the people can’t with zero public good promoted by that distinction.

  43. There should be a countersuit for illegal arrest and malicious prosecution, especially since everyone knows ignorance of the law is no excuse. Where is the ACLU when you need them?

    1. Where is the ACLU when you need them?

      Did you miss the part where the ACLU just won a major Federal Court case upholding the right to film cops in public? Because I’m pretty sure that counts as evidence that they’re not exactly slacking off on this issue.

  44. Hello, actual practicing IL criminal defense attorney here.  First, I don’t believe he actually faces up to 75 years in prison.  That would be 5 consecutive sentences of the maximum 15 year sentence on his Class 1 conviction…an outcome that would practically never happen.  If he goes to trial, the prosecution likely goes on one count, not all 5.  But it’s possible.  Of course, without a criminal background and for what he did, a judge gives him probation (which is possible on a Class 1 felony) even if he’s convicted on all 5. 

    One could also argue that the 5 counts are incorrect since it MUST be that he is charged with filming 5 different officers, since otherwise, this would fall under what is known as the one act, one crime rule.  He filmed ALL of them at once, not 5 different times.  Unless he did make 5 different recordings.  Listening to the report, he seemed to make 2 different recordings.  (By the way, he wasn’t entitled to a court reporter for the ordinance hearing, he would have to hire one).

    That said, this is a ridiculous law and I have run into problems with it in my own practice.  I would note that juries HATE this law and in Chicago, where I practice, a woman recently won a case based on this issue.  She won even though she did it…which we call jury nullification because she broke the law but the jury didn’t care.

  45. I lived under the rule of American police officers for the first 44 years of my life but have spent the last 4 among Britain’s “finest”. Sure, there are problems here (especially if you are a demonstrator) but I will take a British cop 1000 times over an American one. I have witnessed remarkable feats of patience and even-handedness from police here. Basically I think in the UK the police are trained to watch for bad behaviour or the violation of law whereas in America they come at you with the mindset of finding a reason to arrest you or to harass. There is a much stronger bully streak in USA LEA (just like there is in the society in general)

  46. So what happens if a cop is recorded on CCTV or a security camera? Do they get to arrest the company that runs it? What about if you’re recording a friend and a cop wanders into frame? This is bull

  47. How is it that the Assistant AD gets off without his name being mentioned when he is the villain?  Shouldn’t he be made to pay a price for what he has done even if it is only being excluded from polite society?  Shouldn’t his kids have to face the shame of knowing what sort of behavior their fathers engages in?  Shouldn’t his wife have to hang her head in shame because everyone points at her and whispers about what an ignorant ogre of a man she is married to?  Shouldn’t he be dismissed from his job and be disbarred for abusing the authority of his office?

    How many of these things come to pass will tell you all you need to know about whether we are a decent society or a thoroughly corrupt one.

  48. So…if I own property in IL, and festoon it with video cameras that ONLY record the property itself (not what’s around it), and placard the exterior with “VIDEO/AUDIO MONITORING IN PROGRESS 24/7- BY ENTERING YOU CONSENT TO BEING RECORDED”, will that keep the police out? Or do I commit a felony if the police enter the area? What if I’m not present, but the cameras are running- has a felony been committed?  

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