Federal Judge Rules Forced Catheterization by South Dakota Police Violates Fourth Amendment

Suspected low-level drug crimes don’t “justify subjecting the plaintiffs to involuntary catheterization, a highly invasive—and in these cases—degrading medical procedure.”

by C.J. Ciaramella

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that South Dakota law enforcement’s practice of involuntary catheterizations to obtain urine samples from suspected drug users violated the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches.

Chief Judge Roberto Lange of the U.S. District Court for the District of South Dakota ruled that a civil rights lawsuit by six plaintiffs who allege they were forcibly catheterized can proceed to trial on Fourth Amendment grounds. Lange found that the mere suspicion of low-level drug crimes did not appear to justify the invasive, potentially dangerous, and painful procedures.

The suit named three South Dakota cities, several police officers from those towns, and a South Dakota Highway Patrol trooper as defendants.

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