Chicago Artist Faces 15 Years In Prison for Recording Cops

Kurt Nimmo January 25, 2011

In Illinois, you need the permission of the state to record on the street. It is illegal make audio recordings of cops going about their duty arresting unlicensed street artists and other ne’er-do-wells.

It is illegal to practice the First Amendment in Chicago. It is a crime for citizens to monitor the public behavior of police officers and other officials.

Chris Drew, a Chicago artist, was arrested in December of 2009 for selling art on the streets without a peddler’s license and for recording his encounter with the police. He faces 15 years in prison because he didn’t get permission from the cops. Drew used an audio recorder during his arrest and now faces eavesdropping charges, a class 1 felony.

“That’s one step below attempted murder,” he told the Chicago News Cooperative.

A friend recorded the encounter and a video was posted on YouTube.

Recording a commoner without his or her permission is a Class 4 felony. But recording members of officialdom – a judge, attorney general, state attorney or police officer – is a class 1 felony.

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The Eavesdropping Act applies in 12 states and recording is a serious crime in nine states. In Maryland, Illinois and Massachusetts it is flat out illegal to record conversations with cops. Illinois is currently prosecuting nine people.

It is acceptable for the government to tap your phone without a court warrant (under the Patriot Act) and go through your email and log your web browser destinations (the NSA long ago perfected the art of electronic snooping) but it is illegal for you to record a conversation on a public street where there is no expectation of privacy.

Mr. Drew faces a possible life sentence. He is 60 years old and may get sentenced to 15 years in the slammer. In the United States, the average life expectancy is 77.5 years.