Am I allowed to video record the Police in Illinois?

Smartphones are a device that most of us can’t seem to live without.  If you have one, you likely aren’t ever very far away from it.  Smartphones are very useful, but they can lead to legal trouble if you aren’t careful.  There are so many ways technology and the law intersect, remember you best defense will come from the experts so contact a qualified Illinois Criminal Defense Attorney for more information.

Recording Yourself

Take Joshua Moore for example, a young man living in Chicago who recorded then posted videos on YouTube of him and another teen abusing animals.  The Chicago Tribune reported last week that these videos documented the boys doing some pretty awful things to several dogs.  Brought up on felony charges, Moore was fortunate to be acquitted of those charges, but was found guilty of misdemeanor animal cruelty that resulted in probation.   But for these videos captured on his iPhone, Moore would not have been brought up on criminal charges.

Recording in Court

Recording yourself committing a crime is one way to land you in hot water.  Recording court proceedings in Cook County will also become a no-no as of today.  A ban on electronic devices in the courthouse was instituted earlier this year, motivated by a concern over the inappropriate use of smartphones and other devices to photograph and record judges, juries, and witnesses.  Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans has been quoted stating that this ban is also for witness protection since he believes recording witness testimony has led to intimidation and even murder of the witness because of their involvement in a case.

Recording Police

What won’t get you in trouble is using your smartphone to record police in the course of their law enforcement duties.  This is a recent change in the law.  Prior to a court ruling last year, the recording of on-duty police was a serious crime that violated the Illinois Eavesdropping Statute.  If you were arrested for recording police under this statute, it carried a maximum penalty of up to 15 years in prison!

This all changed when the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that this law is unconstitutional as applied to those recording police doing police work.  In ACLU v. Alvarez, the court ordered an injunction against the enforcement of this law on the grounds that it violated the First Amendment right to freedom of speech.  This all came about by concerns that citizens would be prosecuted while implementing the ACLU’s police-accountability program.  This program was part of efforts to curb rampant police abuse of citizens.

Police abuse should not be tolerated.  You should know that you have rights—these rights cannot be intimidated away by law enforcement.  So if you are in a situation where you are recording police in their official capacity, know that you cannot get in trouble for this.  You have a constitutional right to freedom of speech, whether that comes from your person or your smartphone.  If you ever need to defend this right, call a qualified Illinois Criminal Defense Attorney immediately.

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