LEGAL GUIDE
Written by attorney W. Scott Hanken | Mar 14, 2011

Illinois Eavesdropping Statute - your "smart" phone can get you 4-15 if you record an officer

It's late at night and you get pulled over by the police. You think you have done nothing wrong so to capture your side of the story you activate the audio or video recorder on your smart phone to record your interaction with the Police officer. You have just turned a routine traffic stop into a possible arrest and prosecution of a Class 1 Felony punishable by 4-15 years.

EAVESDROPPING IN GENERAL

Illinois' wiretapping law is a "two-party consent" law. Illinois makes it a crime to use an "eavesdropping device" to overhear or record a phone call or conversation without the consent of all parties to the conversation. The law defines an "eavesdropping device" as "any device capable of being used to hear or record oral conversation or intercept, retain, or transcribe electronic communication whether such conversation or electronic communication is conducted in person, by telephone, or by any other means." 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/14-1, -2.

In Illinois, an eavesdropping device cannot be used to record or overhear a conversation without the consent of all parties to the conversation. 720 Ill. Compiled Stat. Ann. 5/14-1, -2. An eavesdropping device is defined as anything used to hear or record a conversation, even if the conversation is conducted in person.

Generally, a violation can be charged as a Class 4 Felony punishable by 1-3 years imprisonment, however if the scenario involves the recording of a law enforcement officer engaged in his official duties Illinois law provides a 4-15 year sentence.

The Statute provides as follows:

Sec. 14-4. Sentence. (a) Eavesdropping, for a first offense, is a Class 4 felony and, for a second or subsequent offense, is a Class 3 felony. (b) The eavesdropping of an oral conversation or an electronic communication between any law enforcement officer, State's Attorney, Assistant State's Attorney, the Attorney General, Assistant Attorney General, or a judge, while in the performance of his or her official duties, if not authorized by this Article or proper court order, is a Class 1 felony.

Keep this in mind the next time you think you are protecting yourself in a Police encounter by recording the events as they transpire.

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