An Illinois prosecutor's attempt to prohibit people from using devices such as smart phones and video cameras to record police officers while on the job has been struck down by the Supreme Court.
The ruling on Monday left in place a lower court’s decision against the law, which would have carried with it a maximum prison term of 15 years for violators.
The justices had taken up an appeal filed by Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez related to a 2010 American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit against an Illinois anti-eavesdropping law which critics claimed restricted their freedom of speech.
A Chicago federal appeals court had ordered in May 2011 that authorities stop enforcing the law, which they found “likely violates” the First Amendment.
For years ACLU staffers have monitored the actions of police claiming their supervision acted as a safeguard against abuses from authorities.
“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,” said ACLU of Illinois’ Legal Director Harvey Grossman, according to the Chicago Tribune. “The advent and widespread accessibility of new technologies make the recording and dissemination of pictures and sound inexpensive, efficient and easy to accomplish."
The controversy surrounding the anti-eavesdropping law has been boiling over since last August when a jury in Cook County acquitted a woman in connection with the recording of a Chicago police internal affairs investigator, who she felt was attempting to dissuade her from filing a sexual harassment complaint against a police officer.
The law was subsequently declared unconstitutional by judges in Cook and Crawford counties.
This February, the state attorney in McLean County decided to drop similar charges against a man who had been accused of recording an officer during a traffic stop after citing flaws in the law according to reports.
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