A federal judge is allowing a Virginia woman to move forward with part of her lawsuit against a D.C. police officer, who reportedly took her cell phone during a traffic stop and then proceeded to text himself a ‘naked selfie’ of the young lady.
Officer Terrence Richardson took Natalia Argota’s phone while another officer conducted a field sobriety test on her back in 2012, according to court records.
He began perusing the images on it, until he came to a “naked photo of [Ms. Argote] that she had taken for her boyfriend.” Without Ms. Agote’s knowledge or consent, according to court records, Officer Richardson attached a copy of the photo to a text that he sent himself from Ms. Argote’s phone.
In her lawsuit, Ms. Argote alleges that through this somewhat brazen violation of privacy the District of Columbia Metropolitian Police Department violated her constitutional right on several fronts – including her Fourth Amendment Rights. The Fourth Amendment protects citizens “against unreasonable searches and seizures.”
At first blush, this might seem to be a case of an ‘unreasonable search.’ After all, the officer reportedly boldly snatched her phone without consent. But, the federal judge, in this case, says – not so fast. The Police Department can’t be sued for this because of something called “sovereign immunity.” Basically, Ms. Argote must prove that the department – as a matter of practice – was continually violating people’s civil rights by illegally searching cell phones. Apparently, Ms. Argote doesn’t have evidence of that. Those claims were dismissed.
But, U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer, did allow Argote to move forward with her lawsuit against Officer Richardson personally. That means there is a potential the officer could be forced to pay her for “emotional or reputational” damages.