'There's A Lot Of Screaming': American Police Officers Forcefully Inserting Catheters Into Suspects To Collect Urine Samples

‘There’s A Lot Of Screaming’: American Police Officers Forcefully Inserting Catheters Into Suspects To Collect Urine Samples

Police in this one state are resorting to using a particularly nasty and painful procedure to see if people they are arresting having been using drugs. South Dakota’s Argus Leader reports that police in this state are now using catheters to extract urine samples from uncooperative suspects.

While the procedure is endorsed by the state’s top prosecutor, many critics say this may well be a violation of suspects’ constitutional rights.

It’s not clear how often police are forcing this on unwilling suspects

Sadly, this shouldn’t come as a surprise, since the Supreme Court recently dashed the Fourth Amendment to pieces. The court, hampered by Republican obstructionism (because they have prevented president Obama from selecting a justice to replace the late Antonin Scalia).

The eight Justices voted along party lines until Steven Breyer, a Clinton appointee, broke ranks, and that was the end of the Fourth Amendment as we knew it. This amendment protected Americans from unlawful searches and seizures by the government and from arbitrary arrests.

The three dissenting justices — Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan were upset with the ruling, with Sotomayor writing a fiery opinion.

“The Court today holds that the discovery of a warrant for an unpaid parking ticket will forgive a police officer’s violation of your Fourth Amendment rights,” she wrote. “Do not be soothed by the opinion’s technical language: This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants — even if you are doing nothing wrong.”

And, of course, this also means that cops can forcibly insert catheters against your will.

Tim Whalen is a South Dakota attorney who has represented clients who have had their urine extracted by force, and he told the Argus Leader that police performing this procedure don’t even bother to anesthetize suspects beforehand.

“There’s a lot of screaming and hollering,” he said, in reference to the suspects forced to undergo catheterization.

Suspects are taken to a hospital, and urine samples are taken without their permission fairly routinely, Whalen said.

Because this procedure is so painful, most suspects nevertheless agree to give a urine sample right after  they are threatened with catheterization. Some however, prefer to take their chances with the hospital.

This is a procedure that is horrifically invasive, said Courtney Bowie, legal director for ACLU South Dakota. That’s especially true if you consider that police are looking for urine samples to verify drug use or driving while under the influence.

“It would be completely improper for people to place a catheter on an individual of the opposite gender,” Bowie told the Argus Leader.  “That would border on an unlawful assault, battery or rape.”

In 2012, Stephan Cook, a Utah resident, filed a lawsuit that claimed county police officers forced him to be catheterized after he refused to consent to a search for marijuana.

Court records indicate that after hearing arguments, U.S. District Judge David Nuffer granted a motion filed by attorneys for the officers to toss Cook’s $11 million lawsuit.

Related: Watch: Madison WI Police Ruthlessly Knee, Punch & Taser Black Teen Woman — Then Bag Her Head!

Unfortunately, catheterization of unwilling suspects isn’t a new procedure, but it’s been brought to light because of the case of Dirk Landon Sparks, who lives in Pierre, South Dakota. He was charged with felony drug ingestion, and his attorney is asking a judge to throw out evidence from a forced urine sample, saying this was a violation of his constitutional rights.

Sparks was arrested in March after police received reports of a domestic disturbance. In custody, his mood changed rapidly and he became fidgety, police officers with the Pierre Police Department observed.

A warrant was signed off by a judge, authorizing police to obtain blood or urine.

Sparks was uncooperative, so police took him to Avera St. Mary’s Hospital in Pierre. There, he was strapped to a bed and a catheter was forcibly inserted into his penis so that officers could take a urine sample.

His urine tested positive for THC and methamphetamine. Sparks was charged with obstruction, two counts of felony drug ingestion, and possession of drug paraphernalia and marijuana.

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Jeremy Lund, Sparks attorney, declined comment regarding the case. He filed a motion in May in Hughes County, arguing that the way police collected the urine sample, via forced catheterization, was never authorized by the judge and was a violation of his client’s Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures.

“Sticking a needle in your arm is very intrusive—I can’t imagine anything more intrusive than this,” said Ryan Kolbeck, a lawyer in Sioux Falls. Kolbeck is also the president of the South Dakota Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Just how widespread the practice of forced catheterization is in South Dakota isn’t really clear, said Attorney General Marty Jackley. The practice is permitted with a signed court order, according to state law. Jackley cited numerous cases that supported the legality of this practice.

He said police officers would rather not have to collect the samples by force, but it’s ultimately up to suspects if they don’t wish to cooperate.

“I don’t think anyone wants to go through that methodology,” Jackley said.

A spokesman for Avera St. Mary’s said employees don’t force care or treatments on patients but they do comply with court orders.

“In certain circumstances others may consent for a patient or a court may order care or treatment,” said spokesman Jay Gravholt. “In those instances, care and treatment can be provided consistent with state statutes.”

Kolbeck said forced catheterization is an extreme measure that shouldn’t be used in routine cases like drunken driving or drug ingestion, and he noted he doesn’t know what state law would allow authorities to use this procedure. And, like Bowie, he noted that the situation could be made worse if women are forced to undergo this.

“They want someone’s urine that bad?” he asked.

 Traditionally under the Fourth Amendment, police are supposed to gather evidence before they arrest a suspect, but the Supreme Court’s decision has scuppered that. If officers make a mistake, which isn’t unusual, since they are, after all, human, evidence they’ve gathered is supposed to be thrown out of court. This was meant to discourage officers from going too far, because if they did, then all of their efforts are going to be tossed. Now, police can go right ahead and make those arrests if they decide to do so.

Hear that howling noise? That’s the sound of your Constitutional rights being trampled into the ground.

Welcome to the future.

Photo courtesy of Scott Olson/Getty Images

raptorella37@gmail.com'

Megan was born and raised in Ventura, California. She has since lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Pacific Northwest, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Mexico, and Costa Rica. While she has always been a liberal, her travels have informed her politics. She has worked for more than 25 years as a professional journalist writing about crime, the police, local politics, feature stories, environmental issues and a variety of other topics. She now writes for Reverb Press.

Megan supports Black Lives Matter and fights against racism, sexism, the corporatocracy, climate change deniers and others who continue to destroy the planet.

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raptorella37@gmail.com'

Megan was born and raised in Ventura, California. She has since lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Pacific Northwest, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Mexico, and Costa Rica. While she has always been a liberal, her travels have informed her politics. She has worked for more than 25 years as a professional journalist writing about crime, the police, local politics, feature stories, environmental issues and a variety of other topics. She now writes for Reverb Press.

Megan supports Black Lives Matter and fights against racism, sexism, the corporatocracy, climate change deniers and others who continue to destroy the planet.

ReverbPress Mobile Apps ReverbPress iOS App ReverbPress Android App ReverbPress App