Federal judge rules forced catheterizations unconstitutional

PIERRE, S.D. (DRG News) – The towns of Pierre, Sisseton and Wagner and former South Dakota Highway Patrol officer Adam Woxland have agreed to collectively pay a total of $440,000 in damages, legal costs and attorney’s fees from a case involving the use of forced catheterizations to obtain urine samples from suspects.

A federal judge has ruled the practice of forced catheterizations is unconstitutional.

The ACLU of South Dakota and attorney Jim Leach of Rapid City filed the Fourth Amendment case on behalf of several individuals against the city of Pierre and the Pierre Police Department, the city of Wagner and the Wagner Police Department, the city of Sisseton and the Sisseton Police Department and the South Dakota Highway Patrol.

In the case, the plaintiffs said they were held down and subjected to involuntary catheterization after police obtained search warrants for urine samples to detect the presence of drugs. However, none of the search warrants obtained by police specifically authorized forced catheterization as a means of obtaining evidence.

In his April ruling, U.S. District Judge Roberto Lange said the mere suspicion of low-level drug crimes did not justify the procedure. He says the plaintiffs were not smuggling drugs or weapons in their urethras and bladders and the catheterizations would only provide evidence of drug ingestion rather than the more serious crime of drug trafficking. Lange continued saying ingesting drugs is one of the least serious drug crimes a person can commit.

South Dakota is the only state in the nation that imposes a felony for ingestion of a controlled substance.