In any busy intersection in any big city, you and your car are filmed, and you will be mailed a ticket if the lens captures you extending a four second yellow light into a five second one.
Guilty until proven innocent.
However…record a cop with an audio or video-recording device? That could land you with potential felony eavesdropping charges is 12 states including Maryland and Illinois.
But like Bill Curtis, the man who “found the Internet,” it turns out Illinois, one of the least free states in just about every freedom index imaginable, has finally found…
The First Amendment.
A federal appeals court in Chicago has now ruled that Illinois’ eavesdropping law “likely violates” the First Amendment and ordered authorities to not enforce it, reports Radio 720 WGN of Chicago and my new favorite blog, Cop Block. Get it?
The ruling follows last month’s announcement by Chicago officials that they would not enforce the law during the May 20-21 NATO summit, when potentially thousands of people could be filming things that could include…cops doing stuff.
Currently, eavesdropping charges could be levied against anyone recording a cop without his express consent. You mean like this:
Your friend is being beaten by a cop for no real reason, and you ask “Officer, may I record your violent violations of the law with my handy video-recording device so that I may later post it on the popular social networking site YouTube and cause you to be humiliated, suspended or even fired?”
“Of course, sir,” he says, whacking away. He smiles for the camera as blood splatters in his face. “Beating up citizens for minor offenses just makes up for the boring traffic duty, you know what I’m sayin’?”
Or, how about this one. You’re joy-riding your motorcycle like a mad man when suddenly a nondescript car forces you to pull over and some crazy-looking dude in acid-washed jeans pulls his 9 mm handgun on you.
It turns out he’s an off-duty cop, and you get a ticket like you deserved.
Only when you post a helmet-cam-recorded clip on YouTube of the crazy-looking dude in acid-washed jeans pulling his 9 mm on you, you find your home is ransacked for evidence, that you have to spend 26 hours in jail, and face 16 years in prison for illegal wiretapping.
If you haven’t guessed already, the second anecdote is true. It happened to Anthony Graber in Maryland, and it was just recently that his case was overturned.
Back to Illinois. In August, a Cook County woman was charged for recording Chicago internal affairs investigators she believed were trying to prevent her from filing a sexual harassment complaint against a patrol officer. Ultimately, those charges were dropped too.
Further, Illinois resident Michael Allison, who at one point faced life in prison–that’s 75 years!–for recording a cop who gave him a citation, had his eavesdropping charges dismissed in 2011.
The 10 other states that require “two-party consent” are California, Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington.
It appears arrests in some fo these states for filming cops are on the rise. The whole thing is so disingenuous. You think you’d be arrested for filming a cop saving an elderly lady from a gang of ne’er-do-well purse snatchers? You’d only be charged for filming a cop when he does something stupid.
Breaking the Law will have more bad news than good. I firmly believe this country is losing far more freedoms than it’s gaining. I also believe I have strong proof of it.
But despite many bureaucrats’ inability to grasp the fundamental concept of our First Amendment, it appears the higher courts nationwide have our backs on this one.