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The Illinois Legislature is considering a bill that would replace a law on eavesdropping that was declared unconstitutional by the State Supreme Court. According to NBC Chicago, the original law led to problems because of the technology of smartphones.

The focus on “private” conversations, lawmakers believe, solves the problem the state Supreme Court was addressing last spring when it declared Illinois’ eavesdropping law unconstitutional. The old law made it illegal in Illinois to record any conversation without the consent of all parties. Illinois is one of only a dozen states to require such “two-party” consent.

But the ubiquity of smartphones and other digital devices took that to the absurd. Under current state law, someone could be prosecuted for recording a campaigning politician or posting a cheering crowd on social media.

Under the old law, a woman who was recording police officers with her blackberry was charged with illegal wiretapping. A criminal court judge declared the law unconstitutional. However, the practice of charging individuals under the old law continued under State’s Attorney of Cook County, Anita Alvarez. This led to the Illinois Supreme Court declaring the law unconstitutional.

The bill being proposed is intended to limit eavesdropping to private conversations. While the ACLU supports that intent, it is concerned with other provisions.

But it objected to an expansion of the kinds of investigations in which police may eavesdrop without a warrant — at least initially. The bill allows police — with only permission from the state’s attorney — to surreptitiously record conversations for 24 hours when investigating such serious crimes as murder, the most heinous sexual assaults, kidnapping, human trafficking and others.

That, ACLU spokesman Ed Yohnka said, is “the kind of unchecked police authority that we’ve always resisted in this country.” When citizens allow such intrusion, it’s typically been only after approval by an impartial judge.

With the advent of technology, investigators have been overreaching until the courts step-in to define what is over the line constitutionally. In a ruling earlier this year, the US Supreme Court ruled that police can’t search cellphones on a person who is in custody without a warrant, a common practice with law enforcement.


8 Responses

  1. Ines

    This could be me doing something weird, but I’ve nietcod that on a pre-update screen shot, a full width browser window does not cause the taskbar to become black. Now, it does. Seems like something is going on with the wallpaper.New Samsung arm chromebook btw.


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