Free Consultation to Review Your Legal Options
Stay Current with Criminal Justice News. Follow New Developments at Our Criminal Defense Blog.

Court Rules Against Force Catheterization

Those of use in Washington might view a search warrant for one's blood as being intrusive, but in South Dakota law enforcement was in the habit of getting warrants for forced catheterization. Or at least until now, because a federal court has just ruled the practice unlawful. The case began when a Jason Riis was pulled over for having a burnt out license plate illumination bulb on his car. The officer observed hypodermic needles in his case, and also found drugs in the possession of his companion after she was arrested on an outstanding warrant. Riis was asked to do field sobriety tests on the side of the road and the officer concluded from his performance that he was driving under the influence of drugs. He claimed to have not used methamphetamine for over 3 days, but a warrant was obtained by a judge for a urine sample. He indicated that he was not able to provide a sample, and 12 hours later he was taken to the hospital for a forced catheterization. He later sued and claimed the process felt like "peeing razor blades." The force catheterization was done by the doctor. According to the court opinion, the doctor was joined by "between 5 and 10 police officers" who were presumably were there to help hold Mr. Riis still during the procedure. It got worse for plaintiff Gena Alverez who was subjected to the same "search." When she faced the force catheterization she was similarly held down, but with male police officers holding her knees apart. The federal court found the practice to be unconstitutional. The fourth amendment, as we know, protects people from "unreasonable searches and seizures." The court deemed this practice unreasonable.