ACLU files suit against Lafayette over photos of police vehicle

(The Daily Advertiser) – The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana has filed a suit against the Lafayette Consolidated Government on behalf of a woman who says police confiscated her phone when she took a photo of her son in the back of a police vehicle.

After cooperating with the officer while he arrested her minor son, Chelline Carter took a picture of her son sitting in the back of the police car, according to the suit. Carter did not interfere with the arrest at any point, the suit alleges.

The officer, Shannon Brasseaux, took her phone from her hand, accessed and searched it, and deleted the photo — all without a warrant or consent, a violation of the First Amendment, the suit alleges. Carter was also threatened with arrest.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction prohibiting Lafayette police from “interfering with the rights of individuals to photograph police activities in public,” and also “from conducting warrantless, nonconsensual searches of cellular telephones and related devices, among other things.”

“Everyone has a right to photograph what they see, including actions of the police as long as they don’t interfere,” Marjorie R. Esman, ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director said in an issued statement. “In addition, cellphones are by law private and can’t be searched without a warrant. Ms. Carter had every right to take and keep the photos.”

Defendants named in the suit are Brasseaux, Lafayette Mayor-President Joel Robideaux and the Lafayette City-Parish Government.

A full copy of the complaint can be viewed at http://laaclu.org/resources/2017/2017_Carter_v_Brasseaux_Complaint.pdf

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