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A - In most situations, attorneys have advised me that you can have a camera view your neighbor's property as long as you are not viewing an area where the neighbor would have a reasonable expectation of privacy. The front yard is not a private area. A fenced in back yard or sun deck might be areas that would be off limits.
The side walk is another place where privacy is not expected and your cameras can view the sidewalks. Definitely do not shoot into a window or door of a neighbor. Looking into their home, even a kitchen is a big NO! Remember, video surveillance on a public area is permitted but never audio. Audio requires all party consent according to the laws as we read them.
Note that U-Spy is not offering any legal advice here and advises strongly to obtain professional legal counseling before making any decisions.
Illinois Audio Recording Law
Note: This page covers information specific to Illinois. For general information concerning the use of recording devices see the Recording Phone Calls, Conversations, Meetings and Hearings section of this guide.
Illinois's wiretapping law is a "two-party consent" law. Illinois makes it a crime to use an "eavesdropping device" to overhear or record a phone call or conversation without the consent of all parties to the conversation. The law defines an "eavesdropping device" as "any device capable of being used to hear or record oral conversation or intercept, retain, or transcribe electronic communication whether such conversation or electronic communication is conducted in person, by telephone, or by any other means." 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/14-1, -2. If you are operating in Illinois, you should always get the consent of all parties before recording an in-person conversation or telephone call. In addition to subjecting you to criminal prosecution, violating the Illinois wiretapping statute can expose you to a civil lawsuit for damages by an injured party.
While you generally are permitted to photograph or record video of people without permission in most public places, it is illegal in Illinois to "videotape, photograph, or film" people without their consent in "a restroom, tanning bed, or tanning salon, locker room, changing room or hotel bedroom." 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/26-4(a).
Consult The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Can We Tape?: Illinois for more information on Illinois wiretapping lawyer.
Illinois Law on Recording Court Hearings and Public Meetings
In Illinois state trial courts, the use of sound and video recording devices is prohibited except by an order of the Illinois Supreme Court. Use of recording devices is permitted in hearings of the state appellate courts, but you must notify the clerk of the court at least five days in advance, and the appellate court may choose to prohibit recording. If media coverage is permitted, only one television and one still camera will be allowed at any given time.
Federal courts in Illinois, both at the trial and appellate level, prohibit the use of sound and video recording devices in the courtroom.
For information on your right of access to court proceedings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of the guide.
A provision of the Illinois open meetings law states that "any person may record the proceedings at meetings required to be open by this Act by tape, film or other means." The statute goes on, however, to say that the authority holding the meeting shall make "reasonable rules to govern the right to make such recordings." 5 Ill Comp. Stat. 120/2.05.
For information on your right of access to public meetings, please consult the Access to Government Information section of the guide and The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Open Government Guide: Illinois.
Latest Illinois Eavesdropping Law Rulings
A federal appeals court in Chicago ruled today that Illinois’ eavesdropping law “likely violates” the First Amendment and ordered that authorities be banned from enforcing the law.The ruling from the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago is the largest blow yet to the law, known as one of the strictest in the country. The current law makes it illegal for people to audio record police officers in public without their consent.The ruling follows last month’s announcement by Chicago officials that they would not enforce the law during the May 20-21 NATO Summit when thousands of people equipped with phones that take video or other video cameras are expected to demonstrate in the city.The ruling from the appeals court stems from a lawsuit filed in 2010 by the ACLU of Illinois. The law suit sought a preliminary injunction barring Cook County prosecutors from enforcing the law.A federal judge denied that request, prompting the ACLU to appeal their ruling. In its ruling, the appeals court agreed with the ACLU, saying, “The Illinois eavesdropping statute restricts far more speech than necessary to protect legitimate privacy interests.”Legal director Harvey Grossman, said “widespread accessibility of new technologies make the recording and dissemination of pictures and sound inexpensive, efficient and easy to accomplish.”“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,” Grossman said in his statement.Debate over Illinois’ law has been a hot topic since August when a Cook County jury acquitted a woman who had been charged for recording Chicago police internal affairs investigators she believed were trying to dissuade her from filing a sexual harassment complaint against a patrol officer.Judges in Cook and Crawford counties later declared the law unconstitutional, and the McLean County state's attorney cited flaws in the law when he dropped charges in February against a man accused of recording a police officer during a traffic stop.The Cook County state’s attorney’s office is still reviewing the 66-page ruling and did not comment on it. Meanwhile, state legislators are considering a bill that would allow people to record police officers working in public.
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