Am. Civil Liberties Union of IL v. Alvarez, No. 11-1286 (7th Cir. 2012)Annotate this Case
An Illinois statute makes it a felony to audio record any part of any conversation unless all parties consent and applies regardless of whether the conversation was intended to be private. The offense is elevated to a class 1 felony, with a possible prison term of 4 to 15 years, if a recorded individual is performing duties as a law-enforcement officer. 720 ILCS 5/14-2(a)(1). Illinois does not prohibit taking silent video of officers performing duties in public. The ACLU has not implemented its planned Chicago police accountability program for fear of prosecution. The district court held that the First Amendment does not protect a right to audio record. The Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded with instructions to enter a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement as applied to recording of the kind at issue. The statute restricts a medium commonly used for communication of information and ideas, triggering First Amendment scrutiny. Any governmental interest in protecting conversational privacy is not implicated when officers are performing duties in public places. Even under the more lenient intermediate standard of scrutiny applicable to content- neutral burdens on speech, this application of the statute "very likely flunks." The law restricts more speech than necessary to protect legitimate privacy interests.