Twelve states have two-party consent eavesdropping laws, meaning both parties to a recorded conversation must consent to its recording. Nine of those states except recordings of police in public from the two-party consent requirements. Three do not: Illinois, Maryland, and Massachusetts. According to this article the Maryland Attorney General has said those who record police in public will not be prosecuted. Illinois, on the other hand, is currently prosecuting nine people, including artist Chris Drew, for recording audio of on-duty police in public. Drew sells silk-screen patches on the street and, following run-ins with police for violating street vending laws, he prepared to challenge those laws on First Amendment grounds. The next time the police came to roust him he recorded the arrest. The state charged him with violating the Illinois Eavesdropping Act–a felony with a 15 year maximum term–not with unlawfully selling his art. His trial is scheduled for April 4.
What about police recording traffic stops, arrests, and other aspects of their jobs? “The Chicago Police . . . have been expanding their recordings of ordinary civilians, with blue-light cameras, cameras in patrol cars, and the like. The justification for these recordings is that what happens in public is public, and there should be no expectation of privacy.” What happens in public is public, and there should be no expectation of privacy. Unfortunately hypocrisy is not also a felony in Illinois.