Anal Probe for a Traffic Stop?

By Allison Frankel, Criminal Law Reform Project, ACLU  
David Eckert was pulling out of a Wal-Mart parking lot when police officers pulled him over for failing to stop at a parking lot stop sign. Police ordered Eckert to step out of his vehicle, and that's when he committed the highly suspicious act of "clenching his buttocks." The officers' natural reaction? This man must be hiding narcotics in his anal cavity.
Being pulled over for a minor traffic violation is never a pleasant experience, but these Deming, New Mexico police officers took it to an atrocious new level, forcing Mr. Eckert to undergo a colonoscopy, anal probes, and defecation in a search for drugs. Yes, you read that correctly: the War on Drugs is being waged on minor traffic violators with enemas and sedatives.
After pulling Mr. Eckert over, officers obtained a search warrant for an anal cavity search and drove Eckert to a Deming hospital. In the one act of sanity in this insane saga, doctors at that hospital refused to conduct the search, saying it would be unethical. Undeterred by such ethical concerns, police then took Eckert to Gila Regional Medical Center, where, over Eckert's objections, doctors performed an x-ray of Eckert's cavity, three enemas, a colonoscopy, and several cavity searches, as well as forced him to defecate in front of them. No drugs were ever found.
As egregious as the police conduct here was, sadly this case is only one of many examples of police overreach in fighting the failed War on Drugs. This August, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held that police could not use drugs discovered in the buttocks of Felix Booker, a Texas man who was pulled over for driving with expired tags and, upon being suspected of having marijuana, was strip-searched, sedated intravenously, intubated, and subjected to an anal probe. Calling the search "one of the greatest dignitary intrusions that could flow from a medical procedure," the Court ruled that the forced procedures violated Booker's Fourth Amendment rights. In two separate incidents in Texas this August, police officers probed the genitals and anal regions of four women suspected of possessing marijuana during routine traffic stops (you can see the horrifying video footage of the searches here). No drugs were found during the cavity searches.
Minor traffic stops should not be pretexts for invasive, degrading, and needless medical procedures. Eckert has filed a lawsuit against the City of Deming and its police officers for their outrageous conduct, including arguing that the search went far beyond what was permitted by the warrant. His lawsuit, and the media coverage of the indignity to which he was subjected, should serve as yet another wake-up call to police departments and politicians around the country that the War on Drugs – which has trampled constitutional rights and overcrowded our jails and prisons – must end.

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