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N.M. Man Sues Over Multiple Anal Cavity Searches

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

A New Mexico man is suing over multiple anal cavity searches after officers incorrectly suspected he was concealing narcotics in his rectum.

David Eckert was leaving a Walmart in Deming, New Mexico, in January, when police stopped him after failing to make a complete stop. When he stepped out of the vehicle, police say Eckert appeared to be "clenching his buttocks," which led them to obtain a search warrant for an anal cavity search.

What followed was a dizzying chain of anal exams and procedures that turned up nothing -- and led Eckert to file his suit.

Traffic Stop Leads to Anal Nightmare

Suits for illegal police searches after less-than-legitimate traffic stops are fairly common, but Eckert's case is on an entirely different level.

His suit, filed in New Mexico federal court in August, alleges the following chain of events, as reported by Albuquerque's KOB-TV:

  1. Eckert was stopped by officers for a traffic violation.
  2. Officers obtained a search warrant from a judge for an anal cavity search.
  3. A Deming city emergency physician refused to perform the cavity search, claiming it was "unethical."
  4. Physicians in a Silver City, New Mexico, medical center performed an X-ray of Eckert's abdomen and found nothing.
  5. Doctors performed two digital rectal exams on Eckert (i.e., using their fingers) and found no contraband.
  6. Doctors performed three enemas on Eckert, forcing him to defecate in front of the officers, and each time found no narcotics in his stool.
  7. A second X-ray was performed, revealing nothing.
  8. Doctors prepped Eckert for surgery and performed a full-blown colonoscopy -- again finding no narcotics.

None of these procedures were performed with Eckert's consent. That's significant because typically, medical procedures without consent are considered a form of battery.

Limits of Search Warrants

Like with strip searches, search warrants to perform a cavity search outside of incarceration have their limits. What is alleged to have been done to Eckert sounds more like torture than a routine cavity search, as a search warrant is not a free pass for officers to order multiple redundant intrusive searches of a person's body.

In fact, federal courts have held that cavity searches involving intrusive and degrading medical procedures like exploratory surgery can be unreasonable and therefore not valid, especially when less invasive means are available.

Not only is Eckert suing the officers involved in making this seemingly ludicrous arrest, but also the medical professionals who took part in this alleged anal charade.

In response to worries about this happening again, Deming Police Chief Brandon Gigante told KOB-TV, "We follow the law in every aspect."

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