Andrade open to amending eavesdropping bill to protect Manteno teen, others from 'ridiculous' application of the law
In April, the state’s attorney in Kankakee County slapped 13-year-old Paul Boron with a felony charge for secretly recording a portion of a conversation he had with the Manteno Middle School principal and assistant principal.
Now the sponsor of legislation that would amend the state’s eavesdropping law, described as “unconstitutionally vague” by one legal expert, is open to further amending the bill to prevent what happened to Boron from ever happening again.
“It’s ridiculous,” state Rep. Jaime Andrade (D-Chicago), chair of the House Cybersecurity, Data Analytics, & IT Committee, told the Kankakee Times. “We have to arrive at some kind of balance in the law. My bill at least gets us started in that direction.”
His legislation, HB 5793, would exempt doorbells that record video and audio as a security measure from the law.
“They (the doorbells) are ripe for cyber tort cases,” Andrade said. “And now that Amazon owns Ring (the company that invented the security measure), the lawyers have deep pockets to go after.”
The House cleared the legislation on April 25 with no negative votes. It got bogged down in the Senate where Andrade said a staffer told him that it “would allow people to surreptitiously record conversations.”
“That’s not the point of it at all,” he said.
Andrade said that he would push to move the bill in November, over the six days scheduled in the veto session.
“There’s enough time to add additional language (in response to the Boron case) and still get the bill to the governor,” he said.
State’s Attorney Jim Rowe charged Boron with violating the eavesdropping law after he secretly recorded a conversation with Manteno Middle School Principal David Conrad and Assistant Principal Nathan Short about his skipping detention.
Ten minutes into the conversation, Boron reportedly told Conrad and Short that he was recording them, and Conrad ended the conversation by telling the student that he was committing a felony.
A violation of the law is a Class 4 felony under the eavesdropping bill signed into law in December 2014 by then-Gov. Pat Quinn.
The 2014 law, similar to a previous one struck down by the Illinois Supreme Court because it “criminalized a wide range of innocent conduct,” drew immediate criticism from conservatives and civil libertarians.
One of those critics, Jacob Huebert, director of Litigation at the Liberty Justice Center, said that “exactly what we warned would happen did happen.”
“You would think this is something that should have been taken care of through the ordinary disciplinary process in the school,” Huebert said.
In a critique of the law published earlier by Illinois Policy Institute, Huebert wrote that it violates due process.
“Because citizens often cannot know in advance whether recording a conversation is legal, the law is unconstitutionally vague,” he wrote. “And because the statute's vagueness will deter people from making recordings for fear of prosecution, it also frustrates free speech and violates the First Amendment.”