The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a controversial Illinois law prohibiting people from recording police officers on the job, reports the Chicago Tribune. By passing on the issue, the justices left in place a federal appeals court ruling that found that the state’s anti-eavesdropping law violates free-speech rights when used against people who audiotape police officers. A temporary injunction effectively bars Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez from prosecuting anyone under the current statute.
Illinois’ eavesdropping law is one of the harshest in the country, making audio recording of a law enforcement officer — even while on duty and in public — a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Last year, a jury acquitted a woman who had been charged with recording Chicago police internal affairs investigators she believed were trying to dissuade her from filing a sexual harassment complaint against a patrol officer. Judges in Cook and Crawford counties later declared the law unconstitutional, and the McLean County state’s attorney cited flaws in the law when he dropped charges in February against a man accused of recording an officer during a traffic stop. Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy has said he would favor a change allowing citizens to tape the police and vice versa.