HIGH TIMES reported today of the shocking case in New Mexico that is gaining national attention. David Eckert, stopped by police for running a stop sign in a Wal-Mart parking lot, was suspected of possessing drugs by a Deming city police officer. Eckert consented to a search of his vehicle (note: don’t ever do that!) and a police dog named Leo alerted to the smell of narcotics at the driver’s compartment. The K-9 handler told the Deming officer that Eckert had a history of drug possession and smuggling by hiding narcotics in his rectum.
Based on the drug dog alert, the K-9 handler’s tip, and the officer’s observation that Eckert appeared nervous and was clenching his buttocks, the officer sought and received a search warrant for Eckert’s person. The ensuing ordeal for Eckert consisted of a transfer to a hospital in a neighboring county where he was subject to at least 12 hours of invasive searches and medical procedures, including two manual probes of his anus, two x-rays, three enemas and a colonoscopy. No drugs were ever found in or on Eckert or in his car, and the man has now filed a federal lawsuit against the cops, judges and doctors involved, claiming that in addition to the humiliation and pain he suffered, the warrant was invalid for the county where and time when he was probed, the judge who granted the warrant did so on essentially an anonymous tip, and the K-9 dog hadn’t been certified since 2011.
Shortly after this story broke, word leaked of another shockingly similar incident. This time, Timothy Young made a turn without signaling. Police pulled him over, suspected him of carrying drugs and brought in the same uncertified K-9, which alerted to the smell of narcotics. Young was taken to the same hospital as Eckert, and subjected to some of the same procedures, including manual anal probes and x-rays. Just like Eckert’s warrant, Young’s warrant was only valid in the county he was arrested in, not the county where the hospital is located.
Now a third victim, a woman who wishes to remain anonymous, has come forward to report her sexual assault by members of the Customs and Border Patrol as she crossed the New Mexico border into El Paso, Texas. Once again, a drug dog (not the same one this time) alerted to the presence of narcotics. The woman was strip searched and asked to spread her genitalia and cough. Female agents performed manual probes of her anus and vagina.
When no drugs were found, she was taken to the El Paso University Medical Center, and she was forced to defecate in front of medical staff. Then came the x-ray, another cavity search of vagina and anus (noted as “bi-manual,” or “two-handed” in the medical report), topped off with a CAT scan. And still, no drugs were found.
Shocking as these stories are, the terrifying part is that in all three cases, cops just might get away with it. Despite the violation of the time and location requirements in the Eckert and Young cases’ warrants, courts often give great latitude to police if their actions are determined to be “in good faith.” In the woman’s case, she’s dealing with federal Border Patrol officials who are given much greater authority to conduct searches for drugs.
Unfortunately for them all, as the New York Times reported, the US Supreme Court in April of 2012 decided 5-4 that “officials may strip-search people arrested for any offense, however minor, before admitting them to jails even if the officials have no reason to suspect the presence of contraband.” This decision affirmed the decisions of lower courts that held “people may be strip-searched after arrests for violating a leash law, driving without a license, failing to pay child support… driving with a noisy muffler, failing to use a turn signal and riding a bicycle without an audible bell.”
And to add degrading insult to humiliating injury? The hospitals have billed the victims for all the medical procedures.
Time to end the war on drugs.