Guy Arrested, Threatened With 15 Years For Recording Traffic Stop In Illinois

from the it-just-gets-worse-and-worse dept

With Illinois planning to appeal the Michael Allison case, in which the state wants to put Allison in jail for 75 years because he recorded an interaction with the police, it’s worth pointing out that this is not the only such case in Illinois. A few people have sent over this ABC report about another guy, Louis Frobe, who was arrested and told he was facing 15 years in jail for daring to turn on his Flip cam during a traffic stop. You can see the video of the traffic stop in the news report below. Yes, note the irony: the whole thing was recorded (without Frobe’s permission) by the police car camera, but the second the officer sees the Flip cam, he tells Frobe he’s committed a felony and arrests him:

The key part:

Frobe calls it the worst experience of his life. He was on his way to a late evening movie on an August night last year when he was stopped for speeding in far north suburban Lindenhurst. He didn’t believe he was in a 35-mile-an-hour zone, and he figured if he was going to get ticket he wanted to be able to document his challenge with video evidence, so he got out his flip camera, which he was not very adept at using.

At one point he held it out the window trying to record where he was. When the officer, being recorded on his squad dash cam, walked back to Frobe’s car, the officer saw Frobe’s camera.

Officer: “That recording? Frobe : “Yes, Yes, I’ve been… Officer: “Was it recording all of our conversation? Frobe: “Yes. Officer: “Guess what? You were eavesdropping on our conversation. I did not give you permission to do so. Step out of the vehicle.”

Louis Frobe was then cuffed and arrested for felony eavesdropping.

Yes, eavesdropping. On himself.

In this case, prosecutors eventually dropped the charges, but Frobe turned around and sued them for the arrest in the first place. The Illinois Attorney General — who still insists there’s no First Amendment right to record the police — has said Frobe’s case should be dismissed since he has no standing. Of course, this is a nearly identical fact pattern to the Glik case in Massachusetts, where the court not only allowed Glik to sue but found 1st and 4th Amendment problems with the arrest. These are different circuits, so the ruling in Massachusetts doesn’t directly act as precedent for Illinois, but it certainly can be cited and discussed.

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Comments on “Guy Arrested, Threatened With 15 Years For Recording Traffic Stop In Illinois”

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69 Comments
btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Law

> Doesn’t the squad car have a dash cam anyway?

Yes, but the Illinois law, unlike other states with similar eavesdropping laws, actually carves out an exception for law enforcement. So the law itself says it’s legal for the cops to record you without your permission, but you can’t record them without theirs.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

RTFS – “At one point he held it out the window trying to record where he was. When the officer, being recorded on his squad dash cam, walked back to Frobe’s car”

My guess is the officer took his information and walked back to his squad car to write up the ticket. It was at that point that Frobe was recording the area and when the officer was walking back to give him the ticket he saw the recording.

tmr says:

Re: re: seems like there should be something odd about this

You read this story and think wow…no way…there has got to be more to this… unfortunately this has been happening quite a bit in Illinois. Evidently, there is a law that was passed about not recording someone without their permission. The intent was to protect people from being recorded for various illicit reasons. It seems however that the only time that the state is actually enforcing this law is when citizens attempt to record police officers. This is only one of many cases that have been popping up in the media.

Bill Silverstein (profile) says:

Only those with something to hide.

If you are not doing something illegal, then you should have nothing to hide from the police! Why not allow the recording without a warrant? What are you trying to hide from the police you criminal?

Oh, it was the police making arrest because of the recording. Ah, you must be a terrorist because you are taking pictures or making recordings without permission from the government. He should have been arrested, yeah.

MrWilson says:

Re: Re:

All of the “original intent of the Constitution” arguments are generally irrelevant to modern issues. The document does serve as a basis for our laws, but it is not the end of our laws. It is merely the beginning. Case law history and the passage of laws granted by the Constitution since its inception are what is important. If the Supreme Court interprets the First Amendment as covering the recording of police officers when in public, then that’s what it covers. As someone else stated, the Constitution was written before audio-video recording devices existed, so it’s not possible that the technology was taken into account when the document was written. But in an analog scenario, the First Amendment would cover you writing down with quill and ink what an officer of the law stated to you during an encounter and the publication of his statements in a printed newspaper. Despite the technological differences, how is the scenario any different otherwise?

Boost says:

Re: Re: Re:

You are dangerously ignorant and wrong.

If this were the case, that would be be the basis for granting the courts to make up the laws as they desire by “interpreting” the constitution to mean things it doesn’t. It would throw out checks and balances all together; it would be the basis for an Oligarchy.

MrWilson says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

You are ignorant of the duties of the judicial branch if you think the courts don’t interpret the law. It’s their job to do so. And yes, they will make biased interpretations of law. The checks and balances are that Congress could pass a law to reject how the courts interpreted a previous law.

Or are we supposed to stick to 18th Century methods of doing things because the Constitution doesn’t say anything about television, the internet, telephones, et cetera?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Article VI.

[…]
“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”
[…]

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Article VI.

[…]
“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”
[…]

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Article VI.

[…]
“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”
[…]

Cabal (profile) says:

Re: Re:

And refuted with the first line of your link:

“…so people can openly discuss or criticize government policy or conduct of public agents without fear of being charged with a seditious crime”

Let me repeat that for the cheap seats:

THE CONDUCT OF PUBLIC AGENTS WITHOUT FEAR OF BEING CHARGED WITH A SEDITIOUS CRIME.

While ‘eavesdropping’ isn’t ‘treason’ or ‘rabble rousing’, the obvious intent of this application of the law is to control the ability of people to refute, challenge, or highlight conduct issues of public officials.

That there is any ‘grey area’ in this debate boggles my mind. At its root, the question is “Does a police officers’ right to ‘privacy’ outweigh the rights of a citizen to speak out on the policies or conduct of the government without fear of reprisal,”.

Considering the Supreme Court is extremely reluctant to establish a blanket right to privacy this should be a no brainer.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Sep 30th, 2011 @ 10:42am

Most refer to that as lawful evil. “The police are just enforcing laws and orders.” Bullshit. That excuse didn’t work for the Nazis at Nuremburg and it sure as hell won’t work here. When you are aware of yourself enforcing an unjust law, you are abusing the system. Lisa Madigan will get her comeupance when this goes to court.

Chris Rhodes (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It’s their job to enforce them

First of all “I’m just doing my job” doesn’t cut it as an argument.

Second of all, they don’t have to stretch laws to cover things well beyond the original intent, merely because they don’t have a legitimate reason to arrest somebody. That’s not justice, and it’s not their job.

Thirdly, they don’t enforce the law equally. Officers routinely let other officers (and other “important” people) off the hook for crimes that would land a normal person in jail.

Time to re-think your position.

Anonymous Coward says:

The guys exemption may be here. Is it a criminal offense to write a flase ticket?

Sec. 14‑3. Exemptions. The following activities shall be exempt from the provisions of this Article:

(i) Recording of a conversation made by or at the request of a person, not a law enforcement officer or agent of a law enforcement officer, who is a party to the conversation, under reasonable suspicion that another party to the conversation is committing, is about to commit, or has committed a criminal offense against the person or a member of his or her immediate household, and there is reason to believe that evidence of the criminal offense may be obtained by the recording;

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

This is an interesting argument. The guy believed he wasn’t in a 35mph zone and wasn’t speeding. If the cop writes a false ticket, that’s a crime. (Not sure of the IL statute, but every state has something about official misconduct and/or falsifying government records.) Therefore, the guy could have had “reason to believe that evidence of the criminal offense may be obtained by the recording” he was making of the cops.

I don’t think that’s going to matter though. This is pretty clearly an unconstitutional application of the “eavesdropping” statute. I hope these jackass cops get hit with a huge judgment.

And one other thing–I hate how the media just comes right out and says “If you record an officer’s voice without his permission, you’re committing a felony.” This is terrible reporting, because it’s going to discourage people from doing what they have a right to do. A better way to report it would be “A few irresponsible officers seem to think that you recording them is a felony. The courts say otherwise, and [so and so] is suing some of them for $XXXXXX. [report the rest of the story]. If you’re a victim of this kind of abuse, please let us know right away so we can put you in touch with a good lawyer to protect your rights.”

Thomas (profile) says:

Uniforms..

Do the cops’ uniforms in Illinois have a swastika armband?

I think the cops are just trying to prevent someone from recording them beating the crap out of innocent people. There will not be a Rodney King incident in Illinois because videotaping the incident will be a crime and the video destroyed. Great for corrupt cops, terrible for honest people.

ECA (profile) says:

LONG ago, 70's to 80's

There was a big debate over WHERE public and PRIVATE are concerned.
Looks as if its back again.

BACK then, as a Property owner, we lost a few RIGHTS on protecting our property.

BUT, if they uphold the POLICE rights at ANY TIME..then we can have them Arrested for infringing on OURS, in recording the Police stop, and even making the information PUBLIC/given to out insurance corp…
IF they consider police cameras, PUBLIC/PRIVATE information.

Moose12 (profile) says:

Illinois guy gets 15 year sentence for taping cop

We vote for the people who make the laws and not for the laws. Once they are made into law they can be manipulated by the powers that be because we are made to feel inadequate to interpret them. The tail is now wagging the dog. This “ticket” has all the “clout” of a seat belt violation. No death, no personal injury, no property damage,not even a plaintiff. Any of these scam tickets can be beat!! You must be prepared by knowing the law or having a trustworthy attorney, by being willing to spend 1-2 nights in jail, and be willing to appeqal to the next higher court and/or jury trial.

atroon says:

The forgotten amendment

In an excellent write up at http://davidbrin.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/the-transparency-amendment-the-under-appreciated-sixth/, futurist David Brin explains some of the implications of the sixth amendment and argues that it gives us the right to look back at authority. The text of the 6th amendment is thus:
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Did you notice that last part? Every person subject to criminal prosecution shall have compulsory process to obtain witnesses in his defen[s]e. Your sixth amendment right to compel testimony in your favor trumps any eavesdropping law on the books. This man is compelling the officer to tell the truth, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Wisconsinite says:

Police above the law there suppose to be up-holding what a bunch of crap. Seems like the Police don’t want any dout about anything they say or do, so when they break the law abuse power there is no proof. Then they can say who do you believe a police officer of a lying citizen (criminal, terrorist ect.) What a load of crap. Should sue for 1 million bucks and win.

WI says:

Wish I had one in my car when the idiot cop gave me a speeding ticket 15 years ago. I admit when I’m wrong but this guy was full of crap and uneducated. Quote Last time I checked if I was going 70 and he was going 70 we would stay the same distance apart. We need to have this freedom to protect ourselves from the corrupt and the ignorant. Second private business spy on employees all the time and say it’s for security reasons.

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