Citizens Can Record Police: U.S. Supreme Court Declines to Hear Appeal of Seventh Circuit Decision

In May we discussed a decision by the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which ruled that an Illinois law prohibiting citizens from recording police violated the First Amendment’s free-speech provisions. The Seventh Circuit had also issued a temporary injunction barring prosecutors in Cook County from enforcing that law. The ruling was appealed to the Supreme Court, which yesterday declined to hear the appeal, leaving in place the Seventh Circuit’s decision.

According to the Chicago Tribune, “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.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which filed the original lawsuit challenging the eavesdropping law, is now asking a federal judge to make the temporary injunction against the law’s enforcement a permanent injunction.

The issue of citizens’ rights as they pertain to recording law enforcement officers in the performance of their duties has peaked in the past two years. reported the following:

[A] number of citizens throughout the country say they have been charged with a crime (often obstruction) while recording police on the job. A Massachusetts man is facing a wiretapping case after allegedly posting a video on YouTube that shows him instructing a female passenger how to use an electronic device to record a traffic stop by Shrewsbury police.

Irving Espinosa-Rodrigue, 26, is scheduled for a pretrial hearing in January, reports the Shrewsbury Daily Voice.

Among other accounts of such incidents recently posted on the Photography Is Not a Crime site, Daniel J. Saulmon tells PINAC that he spent several days in jail earlier this month after being arrested in Hawthorne, Calif., while filming police on a public street. He faced an obstruction case, but says the charges against him have been dropped.

We’ve written a number of articles over the past two years pertaining to citizens’ rights and police conduct, including videotaping, surveillance, and GPS monitoring.

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