Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Civil suit claims body-cavity searches, enemas illegal

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- A civil rights lawyer on Friday filed a lawsuit against New Mexico authorities accusing them of illegally subjecting drug suspects to invasive body-cavity searches. And the attorney who filed the case says she has been getting calls from other people saying they were also detained after an uncertified drug-sniffing dog raised suspicions.

Attorney Shannon Kennedy says her client, Timothy Young, was strip-searched, then taken to the hospital for a cavity search. The suit claims the searches were unreasonable and the search warrant was issued to search his body but not body cavities.

It is Kennedy's second suit against New Mexico officials over invasive body-cavity searches.

Kennedy's first suit involves David Eckert, who was taken to two hospitals and forced to have anal probes, three enemas, two body X-rays and a colonoscopy after a traffic stop Jan. 2.

Police did not return calls. But in response to the suit, the officers said they lawfully did their duties.

Both men were initially pulled over for traffic violations, and the searches ensued after a drug-sniffing dog indicated he detected drugs. No drugs were found in either case. The lawsuit claims the dog is neither adequately trained nor properly certified for narcotics searches.

"The dog is alerting on the driver's seat, and they are detaining people for hours," Kennedy said.

Eckert pleaded guilty to using methamphetamine in 2008. According to the lawsuit, police officers were told Eckert was known in the area for carrying drugs inside his body. Young, who filed the new lawsuit, has no drug record, Kennedy said.

The lawsuits have raised questions about drug searches along the U.S. border with Mexico. In addition to the two cases filed by Kennedy, the American Civil Liberties Union says it is preparing to sue U.S. Customs and Border Protection on behalf of a woman who was crossing into El Paso, Texas, from Mexico in December and subjected to invasive searches after a drug dog alerted agents.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 9, 2013 A18

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