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Christopher Drew, a 60-year-old school teacher, faces 15 years in prison for taping a conversation he had with a police officer.  (Source: José Moré/Chicago News Cooperative)

The Chicago police had 10,000 complaints of brutality, assault, and other wrong-doing filed against them between 2002 and 2004.  (Source: AFP/Getty Images)

  (Source: OBEY Images)
Class 1 Felony of recording a conversation is just below the prison time you'd spend for murder

We've often written on the disconnect between current laws and the reality of the digital age.  When a person gets charged over a million dollars for pirating and sharing a few songs, and a robber stealing a dozen CDs might have to a pay a few hundred in fines, the system can seem incredibly flawed at times.

Another example of this disconnect that has recently been brought into sharp focus include laws that police are using to try to prosecute those that digitally record their actions.  We already covered how police in some areas can arrest you, if you videotape or photograph them in a public or private setting.  Well, in some areas they can arrest you for even recording an audio conversation.

Illinois is one of the states with the toughest laws against audiotaping a conversation between you and another party without their knowledge.  The law [text] states that you can face up to 15 years in prison for committing the offense. 

Christopher Drew, a 60-year-old artist and teacher living in Chicago, is facing the charge after audio taping a conversation he had with the police.  In an interview with The New York Times, he remarks on his potential 15 years of hard prison time, "That's one step below attempted murder."

He adds, "Before they arrested me for it. I didn’t even know there was a law about eavesdropping. I wasn’t trying to sue anybody. I just wanted somebody to know what had happened to me."

He is not alone.  Other Chicago residents, including Tiawanda Moore, a 20-year-old former stripper, face similar charges.  They all have one thing in common -- their charges follow audio taping conversations with police.  The law is seldom applied in other situations – in fact, most don't even know it exists.  The law even makes it a lesser offense to tape a civilian once (a Class 4 felony) or twice (a Class 3 felony), versus taping a law enforcement officer (a Class 1 felony).

Ms. Moore's story is among the most alarming.  She is being charged with the Class 1 felony of eavesdropping using a digital device after recording on her Blackberry a conversation she had with two internal affairs officers.  The conversation occurred during her attempt to report a separate police officer for sexual harassment.  Now she's set for a February 7 trial in Cook County Criminal Court and may spend more than a decade in prison.

Contrast this state of affairs with the fact that Chicago police officers have one of the most stained reputations for police brutality.  According to a 2007 CNN report, 10,000 complaints -- many of them involving brutality and assault -- were filed between 2002 and 2004.  

Along with laws against video taping police in public, the measures against video and audio taping police encounters seem like a concerted effort to chain the hands of the citizenry and prevent them from reporting misconduct and wrongdoing.  Without direct evidence, claims are often discarded and laughed out of court.

The Illinois branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (A.C.L.U.) fought the law -- it has sued the state of Illinois twice -- but the law won.  Its case, which asserted that the eavesdropping law violates the First Amendment and hinders citizens from monitoring the public behavior of police officers and other officials, has been thrown out of court twice.  

Mark Donahue, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said his organization cheered the decision, stating that he "absolutely supports" throwing those who tape police officers behind bars.

He complains that citizens monitoring police activities for wrongdoing might "affect how an officer does his job on the street."

As Ms. Moore and Mr. Drew contemplate on what their life might be like spending the next decade and a half on a prison cot, many in other states face similar situations.  Massachusetts and Oregon both make it illegal to digitally record (i.e. "eavesdrop") on an officer.  And a number of states are considering similar legislation.

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By omnicronx on 1/24/2011 2:34:10 PM , Rating: 5
He complains that citizens monitoring police activities for wrongdoing might "affect how an officer does his job on the street."
In what? A positive way? I would love for this man's explanation as to how keeping an officer of the peace accountable for his/her actions is a bad thing?

Lets be frank, this serves no other purpose than to let police officers get away with performing illegal activities and at the same time essentially assuring that nobody will be able to prove otherwise.

RE: Ha
By Ammohunt on 1/24/11, Rating: -1
RE: Ha
By MozeeToby on 1/24/2011 4:17:25 PM , Rating: 5
Five armed police officers should not require "56 baton blows and six kicks" to subdue a suspect, regardless of how much he is struggling. That isn't an arrest, it's a beat down. In any context.

"11 skull fractures, permanent brain damage, broken [bones and teeth], kidney damage"

"nurses reported that the officers who accompanied King openly joked and bragged about the number of times King had been hit."

Yeah, permanent brain damage... hilarious.

RE: Ha
By AssBall on 1/24/11, Rating: -1
RE: Ha
By AssBall on 1/24/11, Rating: -1
RE: Ha
By vol7ron on 1/24/2011 10:19:45 PM , Rating: 1
The justified reason is undercover officers, which are pursuing an active investigation - similar to how the FBI just brought down a bunch of the mob the other day.

Another reason is news reporters releasing important information before the police have time to follow-up and act on it, which could help criminals get away. For instance, there was a lot of information not released to the public in the DC sniper case.

RE: Ha
By Jeffk464 on 1/25/2011 1:50:04 PM , Rating: 5
Yes, but you cant deny our freedoms because it is convenient.

RE: Ha
By snakeInTheGrass on 1/31/2011 3:21:34 PM , Rating: 2
Wow, so the undercover officers can record/edit all they want, but heaven help us if anyone else does the same? If something is out of context, then demand release of the whole tape.

A news reporter releasing something is a different case anyway - they can use freedom of the press to put stuff out as long as they can't be shown to have broken the law themselves.

I don't think you're saying these justifications make sense anyway (If I sound unhappy, it's not with you! ;) ), I think you're just stating some of the given reasons, but when someone can get 15 years for recording a cop harassing them, there's something very wrong with the system. Like the cops and the system. Clearly the cited examples in the story aren't about someone blowing an investigation or reporting on news, but are more about cops not having to obey the law themselves, and at the very least they need to modify these laws to make them only apply in those sub-cases, not broadly as they do today.

It's fine for the police to record us all they want - if we're part of the same events, it damned well should be fine for people to record as well to protect themselves from abuse.

RE: Ha
By xrodney on 1/25/2011 1:19:40 AM , Rating: 5
56 baton blows and six kicks - That sounds more like attempt for murder.

Laws in US allways were joke but now its getting really ridiculous.

In most countries those would end up in jail for 10-20 years term.

If us want to get below 3rd word then all I can say is good job in doing that.

RE: Ha
By AssBall on 1/25/2011 1:39:04 AM , Rating: 2
in most countries King would have already been serving several years in jail before he got his ass kicked.

RE: Ha
By phxfreddy on 1/28/11, Rating: 0
RE: Ha
By raelalt on 2/1/2011 3:16:59 PM , Rating: 2
That's nice Homer, now go back to sleep.

RE: Ha
By ekv on 1/25/2011 6:21:07 AM , Rating: 4
Are you serious? Do you really want to try to somehow portray Rodney King as the victim, the righteous poster-child deserving special consideration and kid-glove treatment ... ? You might want to re-think that.

If, however, you want to use the Rodney King situation to justify videotaping, then fine. I'd agree ... to a certain extent.

RE: Ha
By nafhan on 1/24/2011 3:20:54 PM , Rating: 1
I wholeheartedly agree with you.

I can, however, think of cases where recorded video or audio of legal and justified police activity can lead to harm for police officers. Things like revenge and perceived racism come to mind. Again, not agreeing with the law at all (I don't) just pointing out the types of arguments probably used to pass them.

RE: Ha
By rs2 on 1/24/2011 5:46:54 PM , Rating: 5
Forget the police officers for a second. Where's the extension to this law that says that I can send anyone who tapes me without my permission to jail for 15 years? Why are the police the only ones entitled to privacy?

RE: Ha
By lowsidex2 on 1/24/2011 10:28:30 PM , Rating: 5
Beyond that.. they freely record me when I get pulled over without my permission. Why aren't they in jail? Oh yeah.. I forgot.. they are the police.

RE: Ha
By Solandri on 1/25/2011 3:18:20 AM , Rating: 5
To turn an oft-used argument on its head, "If the police had nothing to hide, they wouldn't mind being videotaped."

And the standard counterargument of presumption of innocence does not apply in this case since they are public servants and we, as their employers, have the right to monitor their work performance.

RE: Ha
By Jeffk464 on 1/25/2011 1:53:26 PM , Rating: 2
I like the camera in the cop cars, it protects you from the cops as much as it helps them in prosecuting cases.

RE: Ha
By Lazarus Dark on 1/25/2011 7:38:50 PM , Rating: 3
In most places, the officer is in charge of the tape/ hard drive. They can usually delete it if they want. Or "lose" it.

RE: Ha
By tmouse on 1/25/2011 8:05:39 AM , Rating: 3
Actually its here:

Class X 6 years 30 years
Class 1 4 years 15 years
Class 2 3 years 7 years
Class 3 2 years 5 years
Class 4 1 year 3 years

So it would fall between 1-5 years. They mention it's a class 4-3 felony for civilian to civilian offences. Keep in mind these laws were originally to be for eavesdropping. So in that context one can see how bugging police stations and such would be a serious offence. Their current interpretation is bizarre to say the least. These laws also can affect you across state lines so do not tape any phone conversations unless you clearly state at the beginning the conversation is being monitored. The weird thing many of these laws now forbid taping even after notification for the police and often tie in with interfering with the duties of the police which is a bizarre stretch to say the least.

RE: Ha
By MrBlastman on 1/25/2011 11:11:08 AM , Rating: 2
The solution is simple: Make the same penalties apply to the police if done in reverse.

i.e. If an officer pulls you over and doesn't inform you immediately you are being taped with a dash camera and recorded via a mic, you can then go in front of the Judge at the local traffic court and request they prosecute the officer for illegally recording you.

If they can do it to us, we should be able to do it to them. This is utter crap and reciprocity is the only solution to it.

If they want to shove ridiculous sentences down on us, they should have it done to them. Perhaps, after they discover their "due process" is being hampered because all of the evidence they have to put people behind bars all of a sudden could put THEMSELVES behind bars, they might re-think the absurdity of what they are trying to do.

Of course, this would only work in a non-corrupted system, something that is impossible in Chicago and even in the town I live in, Atlanta. Corruption runs deep in all of the systems, both with the Police and the judges.

RE: Ha
By Jeffk464 on 1/25/2011 1:56:34 PM , Rating: 1
It comes down to expectation of privacy, basically when you are in public you have none and the cops should have none. If you are bugging the police department that is obviously not considered a public place. Just like the police have to get a warrant to tap your phone, bug your house, etc.

RE: Ha
By tmouse on 1/26/2011 8:19:21 AM , Rating: 3
Wrong, all municipal buildings are considered public places; you can have access restrictions in public places. I'm not in disagreement with most of your statement but one exclusion I could think of is an arrest by undercover officers were not all of the parties will be arrested. There public recording of the event would most definitely hinder police action and even endanger the lives of the officers and possibly their families. Photos are worse than memories for exposing these people. Now I totally agree it should be ok to record uniformed officer’s doing there duties.

RE: Ha
By Lerianis on 1/25/2011 6:06:23 PM , Rating: 2
nafhan, with all due respect, if a person takes a PICTURE of a cop from 200 yards or more away with a telescopic lens, there can be 'revenge'. Hell, that can even be done just by STANDING OUTSIDE OF A POLICE STATION or nearby with a pair of binoculars and following a person home.

There comes a time where the right of the CITIZENRY to make sure that the police and other civil servants are not abusing their power TRUMPS the rights of the officers.

To me and most sane Americans.... this is the point!

RE: Ha
By zixin on 1/24/2011 3:50:13 PM , Rating: 5
I think the quote is taking out of context. I think he probably refer to taping as a whole will "affect how an officer does his job on the strett" not just the wrong doings. Still, I thought there was a federal whistle blower law that should protect people from prosecution if their tapings prove wrong doing.

RE: Ha
By omnicronx on 1/24/2011 4:22:30 PM , Rating: 4
I'm sure the quote was taken out of context ;)

The problem is, I don't agree with him regardless of context. Otherwise, why do we have cameras on the front of police vehicles?

Its a double standard, cameras are only protection to the police when they are the ones in control.

Laws like these do nothing, just as movie theaters laws of the same nature do nothing. If someone is going to video tape something for an illegal activity, they are going to do it discretely and they are probably going to pull it off. Whether laws like these exist or not. It punishes the public and does not punish those whom the law was meant to apply to.

RE: Ha
By tmouse on 1/25/2011 8:32:53 AM , Rating: 3
Your movie theater analogy is bizarre to say the least. By that line of reasoning it would be ok to commit a crime if you do it openly? There the law says you cannot copy a copyrighted item without permission period. So someone openly taping is no less guilty then someone doing it in secret. It’s foolish to say we should not have laws because people will break them and only those that follow them will be hindered. In this case it’s the court accepted interpretation that’s weird. The law is not a no police taping law it’s an anti-eavesdropping law that can make sense in one context but not in its current context. In theory if they stated they were taping the conversation the police would have the choice to accept or stop talking after notification no charges could be filed. Now some places have different laws where taping could be considered interfering with the duties of a police officer (I really do not see how these outside of special undercover arrests cases could withstand serious judicial challenge).

RE: Ha
By xrodney on 1/25/2011 3:18:14 PM , Rating: 1
One thing is eavesdropping and other one recording your own conversation. I dont really see any problem with recording anything you want as long as you are part of it or its on your own property (unless you are renting it to someone).

Seriously if someone sent you mail its keeping copy in mail server and your computer. If you visit someone else house equipped with video security then you are being recorded. If you go to public places, shop or bank you are again being recorded.

Have no idea why if someone engage any type of communication with your person they should accept risk that that communication could be recorded.

RE: Ha
By tmouse on 1/26/2011 8:10:33 AM , Rating: 4
Depends on the state. In some states only one party needs to know in others both have to know. In your example, by mail, I'm assuming you mean e-mail which has NO legal expectation of privacy at this time outside of a third person illegally accessing the system (which is illegal system access not really reading the e-mail per se). Whoever owns the hardware is as much of an owner as the sender or recipient. ALL states that require two party notifications also requires a public notice be posted clearly on the premises that you are being recorded if the cameras are not in plain sight. Two party notification states work upon the premise that the communication is private and will not be disclosed to a third party without consent of both parties unless there is a court order in place, right or wrong that’s their premise so they can adapt a law to it. Now as I stated earlier if you tell the police you want to record the conversation then I do not see where you should be stopped from doing so. Everything a uniformed police officer does in the course of his official duties should be a matter of public record.

RE: Ha
By walk2k on 1/24/2011 3:54:00 PM , Rating: 5
video a policeman? GO TO JAIL!!

bring a M16 to a town hall meeting? oh no that's fine.

RE: Ha
By AssBall on 1/24/2011 6:00:06 PM , Rating: 1
It wouldn't hurt my feelings if everyone in Chicago went to jail.

RE: Ha
By Samus on 1/24/2011 9:18:59 PM , Rating: 5
I lived in Chicago for years. The corruption and lawlessness is ridiculous. Traffic moving violations virtually don't exist, the police don't even write DUI's because the paperwork is too time consuming. A lot of the time they are drunk themselves. The entire city is unbelievably corrupt from top to bottom. The racism is rampant as well. If you're a middle-aged white male like myself, the police will never bother you, no matter what traffic laws, drug laws, or any other non-violent laws you violate. If you're a black teenager, I feel for you.

The city is completely fucked up. Thank God the mayor (Daley) wont be in power much longer but I question any replacement mayor's ability to fix the city as much as I question Obama's ability to fix the country.

RE: Ha
By michaelklachko on 1/25/2011 3:43:23 PM , Rating: 2
"The entire city is unbelievably corrupt from top to bottom."

It's funny. I wish you lived in countries where corruption is the norm. That would be an eye-opener.

RE: Ha
By 0ldman on 1/26/2011 12:13:00 AM , Rating: 3
I'm pretty sure Chicago is in the US.

Corruption in the US just has a little spit and shine...

Honestly, if someone put forth the effort to dig up the info and had a way to enforce it, I'd be willing to bet that 90% of our politicians/govt employees have done something while in office that should have caused them to lose office.

It is ridiculous and they are the ones in power.

To be in office is suppose to be one of the ultimate acts of service, not a power trip.

RE: Ha
By RaulF on 1/24/2011 7:58:29 PM , Rating: 4
You are right, that icky gun might just jump off his shoulders and start shooting people.

Have to be careful, don't you they are called assault rifles. They go off on people all the time for no reason.

Oh, what does that have to do with this.

RE: Ha
By mcnabney on 1/25/2011 1:43:49 AM , Rating: 3
Just like in Arizona.

RE: Ha
By ekv on 1/25/2011 5:49:50 AM , Rating: 5
Rahm Emanuel: You never want a serious crisis to go to waste

RE: Ha
By Schrag4 on 1/25/2011 1:27:47 PM , Rating: 4
To be fair, a gun didn't randomly start shooting people in Arizona. A deranged man did. So the original, sarcastially made point still stands.

RE: Ha
By 91TTZ on 1/25/2011 2:49:27 PM , Rating: 3
In Arizona the gun went off all by itself? Damn, CNN told me that there was a nutcase that planned this whole thing out and meant to do it.

RE: Ha
By MrBlastman on 1/25/2011 2:52:42 PM , Rating: 2
Umm... It's totally within my right to carry my Steyr AUG (assault rifle for those who don't know) with me if I please, slung to my back, loaded with a 42-round magazine in the mag well. I can even have my holographic sight attached to it also.

All of this, where I live (Georgia) is totally legal, provided I have a carry permit as an added precaution (I do).

However, If I walk into a church carrying said weapon, or even a concealed one, I get to go to jail. If I walk into a public gathering with such weapons, I get to go to jail also. Our laws are pretty goofy here and are actually a result of jim-crowe laws from back in the day to oppress the less fortunate.

But, like the news fails to report, it was the nut behind the gun that killed the people in Arizona, not the Glock and not the 30 round magazine in it either. It was the people there that stopped him that day, and if some of them were carrying, he would have probably been stopped a lot sooner.

But yeah, we should be able to record the police just as much as they can record and conduct surveillance on us.

RE: Ha
By thurston on 1/25/2011 7:09:50 PM , Rating: 2
Umm... It's totally within my right to carry my Steyr AUG (assault rifle for those who don't know) with me if I please, slung to my back, loaded with a 42-round magazine in the mag well. I can even have my holographic sight attached to it also.

My you must have a large penis. (I know what a Steyr AUG is)

All of this, where I live (Georgia) is totally legal, provided I have a carry permit as an added precaution (I do).

You can do that where I live too, no permit required.

But, like the news fails to report, it was the nut behind the gun that killed the people in Arizona, not the Glock and not the 30 round magazine in it either. It was the people there that stopped him that day, and if some of them were carrying, he would have probably been stopped a lot sooner.

Maybe Fox new didn't report that Jared Loughner did the shooting but every news channel I saw reporting it did. I agree that guns don't kill people by themselves but I don't think if a bunch of people there started pulling guns it would have made the situation any better. How would you know who to shoot?

I am a gun owner myself but the second amendment is not very clear.

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

What does a well regulated militia mean?

If the amendment gives people the right to individually keep arms why can't I have a nuclear weapon if I wish? The amendment makes no mention of limits to the potential power of the arms I am allowed to bear. It seems the founding fathers wanted us to have the right to bear arms to be able to protect ourselves from a tyrannical government. If that's the case then I should definitely be able to have any sort of weapon I want.

And on a final note I will quote Lynyrd Skynyrd from the song Saturday Night Special.

Handguns are meant for killin, ain't no good for nothin else.

RE: Ha
By Maiyr on 1/26/2011 1:48:29 PM , Rating: 2
Let me say that I am VERY pro gun. However this is scary, "and if some of them were carrying, he would have probably been stopped a lot sooner". Can you imagine if a few people had been carrying and decided that they needed to stop the violence. Yes, they would have been attempting to prevent a foreceable felony, but they likely would have shot innocent bystanders thereby increasing the body count. If there were any carrying they did the right thing by getting the f*** out of there and going home safely to their families.


RE: Ha
By lagomorpha on 1/29/2011 1:07:34 AM , Rating: 3
Which Georgia are you talking about, the one by Alabama or the one by Russia? Because to be considered an "assault rifle", the firearm needs selective fire. If your rifle has selective fire then you need a Title 3 permit in Alabama-Georgia and the firearm had to have been in the nation before the ban was implemented (except for a small number of firearms that were given special licenses because the owners were friends of congressmen but that's another story...)

RE: Ha
By Adonlude on 1/25/2011 1:09:14 PM , Rating: 2
I am outraged! The police can video and audio record us with their dash cams and personal recorders but we go to jail for recording them. I hope this goes to the supreme court and gets struck down.

Those in public service are the ones that should be monitored, especially the enforcement arm, but not citizens! They are OUR employees, whe have to monitor their performance and they have to answer to US! Not the other way around.

RE: Ha
By Jeffk464 on 1/25/2011 1:47:10 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly what I was thinking, it will stop them from beating the crap out of people. Utah has an officer that has been on administrative leave for 6 months for punching a 54 year old woman in the face 5 times. Nope filming the police is absolutely essential to curtailing bad cop behavior. If not for the filming of Rodney King being beaten LAPD would not have been forced to change as quickly as they did. It is a fact that cops cover for each other, so without civilian oversight there is almost no check on them.

When did americans become alright with living under a police state anyways?

RE: Ha
By mars2k on 1/25/2011 3:26:19 PM , Rating: 2
Right, Wrong is wrong, this unbelievable. I'm no gun enthusiast but the rational behind having the right to have a gun is to arm yourself against the government. I say no matter what, film the cops if for no other reason than to keep them in line. If all policemen were perfect then no problem but they're not. In fact lots of nuts are drawn to the force for the express purpose of being free to bully others. They account to no one. Film them all and the good ones have nothing to worry about.

RE: Ha
By Lerianis on 1/28/2011 2:42:32 PM , Rating: 2
I would say that only about 1/3rd of cops are in it to 'protect society' (and by that, they usually mean "force my morality on the rest of society through fiat of law"). The rest are in it to force their 'authoritay!' on people!

"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home

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