A woman who was subjected to an invasive body cavity search back in 2012 at the request of U.S. customs officials has reportedly reached a hefty settlement with the hospital that conducted the search. The lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, alleged that the woman was selected for random screening at Cordova Bridge in El Paso, during which a drug sniffing dog.
After conducting a strip search, agents conducted a body cavity search. Finding no evidence, she was taken to the University Medical Center in El Paso where she was subjected to additional searches without a warrant. In the end, no drugs were found and no charges followed. While the woman has won the case against the hospital, her allegations against U.S. Customs and Border Protection are still pending in federal court.
Before officers conduct a search, they are required by law to obtain a warrant unless some exigent circumstances apply. Exigent circumstances include imminent harm to police officers, imminent threat of evidence loss, and consent. Short of such circumstances, officers may not subject a criminal suspect to a search. To do so is illegal and any evidence stemming from an illegal search can be excluded from trial at the defendant’s request. In some cases, this can considerably weaken the prosecution’s case.
Anybody who is facing drug charges and who feels they may have been subjected to an illegal search should seek out an experienced criminal defense attorney to help build a solid defense case, exploring not only the legality of the police investigation but all other aspects of the case as well.
Source: Krqe.com, “Hospital settles with woman over search,” July 7, 2014.