Illinois Lawyer Referrals and Legal Guidance
Eavesdropping and Privacy Laws in Illinois
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To legally record conversations, Illinois law requires that all parties consent to the recording. This applies even to conversations that are not private. Illinois law does not require that one or more parties reasonably expect the conversation to be private, thus If a conversation is recorded without the consent of one of the participating parties, that party's right to privacy may have been violated and they may be able to sue, both criminally for eavesdropping, and civilly for invasion of privacy.
Under Illinois law, eavesdropping is defined as the use of "an eavesdropping device to hear or record all or any part of any conversation" without obtaining the consent of all parties to the conversation. An eavesdropping device is any device except a hearing aid that can be used to hear or record a conversation, both on the phone or in person. Illinois courts have ruled that a silent video camera is not an eavesdropping device. Thus, without an audio component, eavesdropping does not occur.
There is, however, an exception for law enforcement which allows police and other law enforcement agencies to eavesdrop without obtaining consent. For example, police may use scanners to overhear cell phone conversations. In fact, conversations has on cell phones or cordless telephones heard on a police scanner may be recorded and it is not considered eavesdropping. Law enforcement's right to eavesdrop is not unlimited though. If you feel that a law enforcement agency improperly eavesdropped on a conversation of yours, we suggest consulting an attorney.
Illinois law on eavesdropping also prohibits using or divulging any information that was obtained through the use of eavesdropping devices. If a person knows or reasonably knows that information was obtained illegally, they may be charged with a crime as well.
The penalties for eavesdropping may be both criminal and civil. As for criminal charges, eavesdropping is a class 4 felony in Illinois, and is punishable by 1-3 years imprisonment. If someone is convicted for a second or greater offense of eavesdropping, it is a class 3 felony, punishable by 2-5 years imprisonment. Alternatively or in addition to a criminal lawsuit, a party may bring a civil suit for eavesdropping. In a civil suit for eavesdropping, a party may sue for injunction, requiring the eavesdropping party to stop the listening and/or recording. The suing party may also recover monetary damages from the eavesdropper, the person responsible for the eavesdropping (e.g. an employer of the actual eavesdropper), and/or any person who knowingly receives any information from illegal eavesdropping.
If you have been charged with eavesdropping in Illinois or any other crime, you need representation by an attorney that is experienced and will fight to protect you. If you would like a recommendation for a criminal defense lawyer in Chicago or anywhere else in Illinois, please call us at (312) 346-5320 or (800) 517-1614 or fill out our contact us form and we will contact you.