Feds subject drug suspect to vaginal/anal probe, X-ray, CT Scan, without a warrant -- find nothing

The ACLU is representing a New Mexico woman in her fifties who was subjected by federal agents to a two-handed (!) vaginal and anal examination, an involuntary X-ray and CAT scan, and was forced to defecate in front of strangers. The woman was suspected of being in possession of drugs, on the basis of a drug-dog alert at the Juarez/El Paso border-crossing. No drugs were found. The federal agents -- it's not clear what agency they were with -- did not obtain a warrant. The doctors at University Medical Center in El Paso performed the procedures without the victim's consent, including the CT scan, which subjects people to a high dose of potentially harmful radiation.

The ACLU of New Mexico is certainly developing some deep expertise on the subject of involuntary, drug-war anal probes: see this earlier story by Mark.

A dog alerted to the woman, and Schaur Ives said federal agents stripped searched her at the facility, asked her to undress, to spread her genitalia and to cough. Female agents also allegedly pressed their fingers into her vagina looking for drugs.

The woman claims they didn't discover anything during the on-site strip search, so they took her to University Medical Center of El Paso.

"First, medical staff observed her making a bowl movement and no drugs were found at that point," Schaur Ives said. "They then took an X-ray, but it did not reveal any contraband. They then did a cavity search and they probed her vagina and her anus, they described in the medical records as bi-manual--two handed. Finally, they did a cat scan. Again, they found nothing."

The ACLU claims the federal agents never secured a search warrant before probing or touching the woman.

"And her medical records indicate that she refused consent," Shaur Ives said.

NM woman comes forward with illegal probing claims [Chris Ramirez/KOB]

(via Reddit)

Notable Replies

  1. So I'm pretty sure nothing worse than a brief payed vacation will happen to the cops, but all the medical personnel involved should lose their licenses to practice for not even insuring that is was legal before doing that to someone who didn't consent.

  2. The solution to all of these authoritarian problems is so obvious: criminal charges against the perpetrators AND the people giving the orders. Instead we get court cases against public institutions, they settle out of court, and when they pay a fine or settlement it is with the people's own money. It is pretty clear that those fines and settlements are not a deterrent against future bad behavior.

    Now, you must understand that criminal charges will and must go through trial. This is critical. Sometimes what appears to be unconscionable behavior to us, the outside viewer, will turn out to have been reasonable under the scrutiny of an informed jury. Criminal charges do not mean just punishing cops or agents of the government at random. Criminal charges can only mean punishing criminals. The innocent will be found innocent.

    (Yes, I realize this ignores the many flaws of the criminal justice system... but if it is good enough for you, it is good enough for a cop or politician. Right?)

    Not having the trial, and instead having settlements, has a compounding negative impact because it is both not a deterrent and also eliminates the critical thinking. Without trials, we do not have judges and juries thinking deeply about these problems and coming to conclusions and judgements that can further be studied and understood. Instead we just get meaningless arguments between uninformed zealots.

    edit: typo fixed

  3. I second the general outrage, but there's another thing about this, and the similar case with the man, that really bugs me. It's that the stakes as so incredibly low. Who gives a flying damn about someone who may or may not have drugs stuffed into their orifices? Unless they have the Tardis in there, it's only going to be a small amount. Why do the police seem so driven to humiliate and violate someone on the off chance they have a personal supply of drugs? It's just not proportionate.

    (Which leads me to believe they do it out of pure sadism rather than any sense of law enforcement at all.)

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