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Traffic stop leads to forced colonoscopy

November 6, 2013

How many more times do events like this need to happen before we put a stop to them? This comes from station KOB in Albuquerque; the video of their TV news report can be seen at the link.

4 On Your Side investigates traffic stop nightmare

[…] The incident began January 2, 2013 after David Eckert finished shopping at the Wal-Mart in Deming. According to a federal lawsuit, Eckert didn’t make a complete stop at a stop sign coming out of the parking lot and was immediately stopped by law enforcement.

Eckert’s attorney, Shannon Kennedy, said in an interview with KOB that after law enforcement asked him to step out of the vehicle, he appeared to be clenching his buttocks. Law enforcement thought that was probable cause to suspect that Eckert was hiding narcotics in his anal cavity. While officers detained Eckert, they secured a search warrant from a judge that allowed for an anal cavity search. […]

What Happened

While there, Eckert was subjected to repeated and humiliating forced medical procedures. A review of Eckert’s medical records, which he released to KOB, and details in the lawsuit show the following happened:

1. Eckert’s abdominal area was x-rayed; no narcotics were found.

2. Doctors then performed an exam of Eckert’s anus with their fingers; no narcotics were found.

3. Doctors performed a second exam of Eckert’s anus with their fingers; no narcotics were found.

4. Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.

5. Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema a second time. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.

6. Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema a third time. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.

7. Doctors then x-rayed Eckert again; no narcotics were found.

8. Doctors prepared Eckert for surgery, sedated him, and then performed a colonoscopy where a scope with a camera was inserted into Eckert’s anus, rectum, colon, and large intestines. No narcotics were found.

Throughout this ordeal, Eckert protested and never gave doctors at the Gila Regional Medical Center consent to perform any of these medical procedures. […]


Update
Orin Kerr writes at The Volokh Conspiracy (my emphasis in the penultimate sentence).

A Preliminary Legal Analysis of Eckert v. City of Deming, the “Clenched Buttocks” Case

A lot of folks in the blogosphere have been writing about this story on Eckert v. City of Deming, a Fourth Amendment civil case involving a routine traffic stop that turned into the government forcing a suspect to undergo invasive medical procedures looking for drugs. I thought I would run through some of the allegations as well as the major legal issues they raise. Unfortunately, the case is too complicated to give a full and complete picture of all the legal issues in the time I have. But I hope to at least hit some major points.

The facts alleged in the case are complicated and filled with many allegations, but here’s the gist of it. […]

Finally, the officers came to the conclusion that Eckert had no drugs in him, and they returned him home. To add insult to injury, the medical center then billed Eckert for the medical procedures that they forced him to undergo. (Not relevant to the Fourth Amendment issues, I realize. But damn, that’s cold.)

This sounds like another case of injustice becoming law. I believe the medical people billed Mr. Eckert somewhere in the neighborhood of $6.000 for their services to the police.

Ignoring the Fourth Amendment issues and looking only at the money trail, where’s the downside for the police? There is no downside: they could do this to anyone. By forcing the victim to pay for medical procedures he doesn’t consent to in their search for drugs, all the police lose is their time.


Update from KOB (1/12/14)

City, county settle in controversial anal probing case

In November, a KOB 4 On Your Side investigation outraged the nation and the story of David Eckert went viral.

From coast to coast, people wanted justice for the New Mexico man who was anally probed and forced to undergo a colonoscopy after police suspected he had drugs in his rectum.

Sunday, Eckert tells KOB that he is finding some justice after a major court decision in his case. […]

In December, Hidalgo County and the City of Deming settled.

Through a records request, 4OYS learned that settlement amount is set at $1.6 million.

“The gratifying aspect of this case is the media attention that it has gotten and the opportunity for discussions in the law enforcement and medical communities about how to deal with these opportunities and what to do with requests from law enforcement about medical exams for people in custody,” Eckert’s attorney Joseph Kennedy said.

Here is the settlement breakdown: Hidalgo County will pay $650,000 and the City of Deming will pay $950,000.

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