Chicago police move in during protests against the NATO summit in May.
Chicago police move in during protests against the NATO summit in May. AFP/Getty Images
The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear a case on the constitutionality of recording police officers while they do their job.
This means the court leaves in place a lower-court ruling, which found placing limits on taping police in public spaces unconstitutional.
The ACLU of Illinois brought the a suit against Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez in 2010, after her office wanted to bring charges against ACLU staff recording audio of "police officers performing their public duties in a public place and speaking loudly enough to be heard by a passerby."
The state attorney wanted to bring the charges based on Illinois' eavesdropping law, which has gained much attention lately.
"Two state court judges have ruled that the application of the law to prosecute individuals for recording police in a public place is unconstitutional," the ACLU said in a press release. "And, a Cook County jury last year acquitted a young woman charged with the offense."
The Chicago Tribune reports the woman in that case recorded a "Chicago police internal affairs investigators she believed were trying to dissuade her from filing a sexual harassment complaint against a patrol officer."
In another case, another state attorney "cited flaws in the law when he dropped charges this past February against a man accused of recording an officer during a traffic stop."
The ACLU said the next step is to obtain a permanent injunction against prosecution in cases like these. Harvey Grossman, legal director of the ACLU of Illinois, said in a statement:
"The ACLU of Illinois continues to believe that in order to make the rights of free expression and petition effective, individuals and organizations must be able to freely gather and record information about the conduct of government and their agents – especially the police. The advent and widespread accessibility of new technologies make the recording and dissemination of pictures and sound inexpensive, efficient and easy to accomplish.
"While a final ruling in this case will only address the work of the ACLU of Illinois to monitor police activity, we believe that it will have a ripple effect throughout the entire state. We are hopeful that we are moving closer to a day when no one in Illinois will risk prosecution when they audio record public officials performing their duties. Empowering individuals and organizations in this fashion will ensure additional transparency and oversight of public officials across the State."