Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Consumer Protection Implications in Illinois Eavesdropping Law

Until recently, Illinois had one of the strictest eavesdropping statutes.  In short, in almost every circumstance, it was illegal in Illinois to record a conversation without the consent of all parties involved.  Other states have “one-party consent” rules that permit conversations to be recorded as long as at least one party in the conversation consents to the recording.  In most of these cases, as you might imagine, the person doing the recording often is the person who has consented.  However, according to a recent article in the National Law Review, the Illinois Supreme Court recently struck down the very broad eavesdropping law in our state.  And this decision could have important implications for consumers dealing with debt collection and mortgage servicers.
Have you been harassed by a debt collector who lied to you over the phone?  Or perhaps you’ve had a conversation with a mortgage loan servicer who instructed you to stop paying your mortgage? Now, Illinois residents are going to have more freedom to record these conversations and to file claims when they have proof that they’ve been treated unfairly.  At the Emerson Law Firm, our experienced consumer protection attorneys and foreclosure defense lawyers are eager to help with your case, and we’re here to answer your questions today.
Broad Illinois Eavesdropping Law Deemed Unconstitutional
Before the recent Illinois Supreme Court Decision, Section 14-2 of the Illinois Criminal Code made it a felony offense for individuals who “knowingly use an eavesdropping device to record or intercept another’s conversation” without the consent of all parties involved.  This law was known as a “two-party consent” rule.
However, in People v. Melongo, the Illinois Supreme Court held that the two-party consent rule of the Illinois eavesdropping statute was unconstitutional.  The case began in 2010, when Annabel Melongo recorded phone conversations she had with a court reporter supervisor in Chicago.  Melongo had recorded the conversations in an “attempt to correct an error in a court transcript” that suggested she had not been in the courtroom during a proceeding, according to an article in the Chicago Tribune.  Melongo “later posted audio of the phone discussions on a website she created and her computer-tampering case.”
Melongo was charged with violating the Illinois eavesdropping statute and remained in jail after a 2011 jury deadlocked.  After appeals, the Illinois Supreme Court held that the Illinois eavesdropping statute is “overbroad and not narrowly tailored enough to meet constitutional standards,” according to the article in the National Law Review.
Why’d the Court decide as it did?  The Chicago Tribune detailed some of the Court’s reasoning.  In particular, the statiute was intended to protect “conversational privacy,” but in practice, it actually “criminalizes the recording of conversations that cannot be deemed private: a loud argument on the street . . . or any conversation loud enough that the speakers should expect to be heard by others.”  As a result of the Court’s decision, the law is currently unenforceable unless Illinois legislators enact a new eavesdropping statute.
Implications for Consumer Protection
When the eavesdropping statute remained good law, consumers weren’t legally permitted to record conversations with debt collectors or loan servicers.  However, as long as the law remains unenforceable, it may be possible for Illinois consumers to record phone calls in which debt collectors or mortgage loan servicers tell falsehoods.  Have you received threatening or harassing phone calls from debt collectors or loan servicers?  You may be able to file a claim for compensation.  Contact the consumer protection attorneys at the Emerson Law Firm today.
See Related Blog Posts:
Incentives to Buy Illinois Foreclosures

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