Mar 24, 2014

Eavesdropping in Illinois No Longer a Crime? That is Correct, For the Time Being.

Carlton Marcyan

The Illinois Supreme Court just unanimously ruled the Illinois eavesdropping law unconstitutional. The law made it illegal to record any person, whether in public or private, unless they consented. Typically, the law was applied against citizens recording governmental officials; however, the issue of eavesdropping rears its head in divorce cases where frequently spouses investigate and record each other.

Annabel Melongo, incarcerated for almost 2 years, had recorded several phone calls with a court reporter about how to correct a hearing transcript. The Cook County States Attorney charged her with six counts of eavesdropping. What kept her in jail until trial was the $500,000 bond she could not afford. There was a hung jury after the trial and the States Attorney was going to try her again; Melongo filed her own motion to dismiss and the trial judge dismissed criminal charges against her. The States Attorney appealed directly to the Illinois Supreme Court which found the law unconstitutional.

Until the Illinois legislature approves a new eavesdropping statute there is no prohibition on eavesdropping in Illinois except as limited by federal law which only requires one party to a recording to authorize it. The now unconstitutional Illinois law required that both parties to the recording to so authorize.

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