With shocking regularity, police throughout the United States are being allowed to use felony wiretapping charges to arrest people who happen to videotape or record them in public.
And what’s even more shocking is that in Illinois, police are actually authorized to make these arrests.
Most states have a provision where a cop must have an expectation of privacy in order for the charges to stand, not that it hasn’t stopped cops from making these arrests.
That provision was removed from the Illinois statute in 1994, according to Radley Balko’s column in the Chicago Sun-Times.
And that doesn’t spell good news for Christopher Drew, a Chicago street artist who was arrested last December after violating this law.
Drew, 59, was initially brought into the station on two city charges of not having a peddler’s license and peddling in a prohibited area.
But when police searched him, they found a digital voice recorder which had recorded the actual arrest.
So they slapped him with an additional felony eavesdropping law.
And this month, an Illinois judge rejected Drew’s motion to dismiss the case. So he is still facing between 4 to 15 years in prison.
All for recording a couple of cops who were harassing him for selling his dollar-a-piece art.
Talk about unconstitutional.
The eavesdropping law also appears to be unconstitutional in Maryland where Anthony Graber is facing two counts of felony wiretapping charges after he posted a video of an undercover cop pulling a gun on him during a traffic stop. He goes to court June 1.
And in another Maryland incident caught in the video above, police were arresting a woman at the Preakness race track while a man was videotaping them.
One cop turns to the videographer and tells him the following:
“Do me a favor and take a walk, now,” the officer says. “Do me a favor and turn that off. It’s illegal to record anybody’s voice or anything else in the state of Maryland.”
The videographer stopped recording it, but as one law professor pointed out in a WJZ.com article, once the officer acknowledged that the man was recording, it was no longer a “secret” recording, therefore, not applicable under the wiretapping law.
The last official interpretation of Maryland’s law came from the previous attorney general saying it was legal for officers to record video on dashcams.
Delegate Sandy Rosenberg is pushing the current attorney general for his opinion on whether you can record them, too.
“If he finds that there are circumstances when it’s illegal, under existing law, to tape public actions by police or other public officials, then it’s appropriate for me to introduce a bill to change that statute,” said Rosenberg, (D) District 41, Baltimore City.
So if there is no current legal opinion or law in Maryland, then why the hell is Graber still facing charges?