WEARE, N.H. (AP) — The town of Weare will pay $57,500 to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit brought by a woman who said police were wrong to charge her for videotaping a traffic stop.
In the settlement, the town and its police force don’t admit wrongdoing. Charles Bauer, the lawyer representing the town and some of the officers involved, said they agreed to settle after a recent federal appeals court ruling in the case of Carla Gericke found such recording is legal unless an officer orders the person to stop for safety reasons.
Gericke, of Lebanon, was driving behind a friend on March 24, 2010, when the lead car was pulled over. Gericke began to record the stop and was asked by Sgt. Joseph Kelley to return to her car. He did not ask her to stop recording.
She was charged with illegal wiretapping later that day and filed suit in 2011. Charges were later dropped.
Last month, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals said citizens may videotape police officers performing their duties unless an officer orders them to disperse or stop recording for legitimate safety reasons. In its unanimous ruling, the court rejected arguments by Weare officers that they should be immune from liability, under a theory that allows government officials to make reasonable mistakes that do not violate clearly established constitutional rights or state laws.
Gericke’s lawyer said that ruling was groundbreaking, adding to a 2011 ruling in Massachusetts by specifically protecting the right to videotape traffic stops.
“Unfortunately, sometimes, the only thing that changes entrenched behaviors is if it becomes too costly to continue those behaviors,” Hipple said. “This settlement helps to make it clear that government agencies that choose to retaliate against videographers will pay for their retaliation in dollars and cents. We are confident that this settlement will help to make arrests of videographers a thing of the past.”
The settlement award will be paid by the town’s risk management company.
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