SB1342, the “Eavesdropping Bill” Explained

There was a lot of important legislation considered (and not) during the recently ended Veto session in Springfield. In addition, we adjourned sine die, which means that the 98th General Assembly is officially over. There will be no more legislative actions until the new 99th General Assembly is sworn in on January 14th.

One of the bills that we passed overwhelmingly has generated a lot of attention. The bill is Senate Bill 1342, sponsored by Sen. Kwame Raoul and Rep. Elaine Nekritz; the so-called “eavesdropping” bill. I voted “aye” on this bill.

A constituent of mine emailed me, concerned that the bill makes it a felony to record police actions. The person said that they heard this on social media. I told the person that if one relies on social media to explain complex pieces of legislation, then we’re all in trouble.

Complex legal issues require complex and lengthy statutory guidelines; SB 1342 is one of them.  Yes, the police still can be recorded.  The allowing of “two party” consent, that this bill requires, doesn’t rise to filming an arrest or police beating for example.  Why?  Because a public official (the cop) in the course of their job (in the public) cannot reasonably expect privacy in that context.

This bill was passed based upon Illinois’ previous eavesdropping law being held as unconstitutional.  Therefore, something that would pass constitutional muster had to be passed.  Actually, even illegally eavesdropping a police officer has a reduced penalty under this bill.

There’s some things in this bill that I don’t like.  The ACLU doesn’t either.  The American Civil Liberties Union lauded the bill for restoring private conversation protections and for making it legal to record police officers while on duty. The May 2012 NATO summit in Chicago, developed the issue of eavesdropping and other concerns.

The ACLU however objected to an expansion of investigations that the police may eavesdrop without a warrant. But these are the most heinous of crimes; murder, criminal sexual assault and similar offenses. Most citizens should not worry about being included in that class of potential recordees. Actually, that inclusion was a trade-off to get the bill passed.

No bill is perfect, and factions with a particular ideology have to understand that all sides have to be considered in agreed legislation. I think that most reasonable people, in this age of electronic communication, would welcome barring individuals from secretly recording conversations between two parties, intended to be private. That is the jist of what this bill does. It presently is on the desk of Governor Quinn.

Al Riley
Assistant Majority Leader
State Representative, 38th District