ACLU sues Lafayette cop over cell-phone pic

by Walter Pierce

The suit claims a Lafayette police officer violated resident Chelline Carter’s rights when he confiscated her cell phone and deleted a photograph she had taken of her son under arrest in the cruiser’s back seat.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana has filed suit in federal court in Lafayette on behalf of a local mother whose phone was confiscated by an officer after she took a photo of her son handcuffed in the back seat of the officer’s Lafayette Police Department cruiser.

According of ACLU-La. Executive Director Marjorie Esman, the altercation took place between Chelline Carter and LPD officer Shannon Brasseaux who, according to Esman, took Carter’s phone from her hand after he saw her snap a picture of her minor son, accessed the photo and deleted it without a warrant or consent. Esman says Brasseaux also threatened Carter with arrest if she didn’t cooperate.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Lafayette, seeks an injunction barring police from violating the rights of citizens to photograph police and also from conducting “warrantless nonconsensual searches of cellular telephones and related devices.”

“Everyone has a right to photograph what they see, including actions of the police as long as they don’t interfere,” Esman says in a release announcing the lawsuit. “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.”

In addition to Brasseaux, Lafayette Consolidated Government and Mayor Joel Robideaux are named as defendants.

Read the full lawsuit here.