CONCORD, N.H. – On September 30, 2021, the ACLU of New Hampshire settled a federal civil rights lawsuit in a case where a man’s phone was forcibly seized without a warrant by police after he recorded the police during a situation at a convenience store. As alleged in the ACLU-NH’s lawsuit, this forcible seizure violated his Fourth and First Amendment rights. In settling this case, the City of Manchester agreed to pay $20,000.
On October 17, 2019, officers from the Manchester Police Department forcibly seized the smartphone of bystander Neil Pineda-Landaverde. After seizing Mr. Pineda-Landaverde’s phone, the Police Department then kept the phone without obtaining a warrant for 15 days.
“If the police want to seize a bystander’s phone, the answer is simple—get a warrant,” said Gilles Bissonnette, Legal Director of the ACLU of New Hampshire. “Public recordings of police have been instrumental in ensuring transparency and accountability, and the right to record is enshrined in the First Amendment. Actions like this from law enforcement can instill fear in people simply wishing to exercise their constitutional rights. We are hopeful that this settlement will cause police departments to think twice before seizing a bystander’s cell phone without a warrant after recording the police.”
“I am thankful that this case is now over,” said Neil Pineda-Landaverde. “I am hopeful that this settlement will cause police departments to think twice before, without a warrant, seizing a bystander’s cell phone after recording the police.”
The ACLU-NH’s press release announcing the March 9, 2020 lawsuit is here: https://www.aclu-nh.org/en/press-releases/aclu-nh-files-lawsuit-against-manchester-seizing-without-warrant-phone-bystander
The ACLU-NH’s March 9, 2020 lawsuit is here: https://www.aclu-nh.org/sites/default/files/field_documents/court-documents-pineda.pdf
The Settlement Agreement is here: https://www.aclu-nh.org/sites/default/files/field_documents/pineda_agreement.pdf