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What you need to know if you are accused of eavesdropping

Illinois has been home to some contentious debates regarding eavesdropping in recent years. As we mentioned in this article on our website, this state's eavesdropping laws were at one time, some of the most aggressive in the country.

Prior to the passage of new rules at the end of last year, people could be arrested, charged and prosecuted for recording interactions and conversations of any kind. Most controversially, perhaps, was the ability for a person to get arrested for recording a police officer's behavior and actions on the job.

Over the past several months, claims of police brutality and use of excessive force have cast a dark shadow on law enforcement. Unarmed people have been shot and killed and suspects ultimately found to be innocent have been subjected to gruesome beatings; the public has been understandably outraged -- and fearful -- whenever these stories are reported.

This has led to more people recording police interactions with suspects in order to document what is -- or is not -- happening. And this is easier than ever to do, considering the fact that all you need is a cellphone that can record.

Up until last year, Illinois law forbid people from recording conversations without the consent of all other parties involved. This meant that if someone recorded an exchange between police and a member of the public, the person recording could be the one to face felony charges unless everyone gave their consent to be recorded.

However, eavesdropping laws have been updated recently. Under the current law, only recordings of private conversations must have the consent of all parties. If there is a reasonable expectation of privacy between the parties in a conversation, it cannot be recorded without permission.

This means that public conversations or exchanges can be legally recorded without the consent of any parties. This would include, for example, police interactions with suspects on the street.

This is a very complicated area of law and places a lot of weight on identifying what is considered reasonable and what violates a person's right to the expectation of privacy. Should eavesdropping charges be filed, it would be wise to discuss the situation and details of the case with a criminal defense attorney.

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Darryl A. Goldberg
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