Riis v. Shaver

Court: United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Central Division
Case Number: 3:17-CV-03017-RAL
Decision Date: May 12, 2020
Case Type: Fourth Amendment
This case involves six Plaintiffs that claimed they were illegally catheterized so that police could test their urine for drugs. After discovery, all the Defendants moved for summary judgment on all claims, and all the Plaintiffs moved for summary judgment on their liability claims. The court declined to dismiss the case brought by the six individuals who sued the cities of Pierre, Wagner and Sisseton, as well as various law enforcement officers who oversaw the forced catheterizations.
Police used catheters to obtain urine samples to determine if suspects had ingested drugs. However, the court found that the practice was excessive for low-level drug crimes as “[d]efendants’ need to obtain the plaintiffs' urine to prove a low-level drug crime did not justify subjecting the plaintiffs to involuntary catheterization, a highly invasive—and in these cases—degrading medical procedure,”
Two plaintiffs – Gena Alvarez and Aaron Peters – were subject to forced catheterizations even though they were not arrested for, or suspected of, drug crimes. Alvarez had been pulled over by the South Dakota Highway Patrol for DUI, for which the court noted the officers already had sufficient evidence to support a DUI charge, and Peters had been arrested by Wagner police on a bench warrant for failing to pay a court fee.
Alvarez, who had a history of being sexually abused was held down and her clothes removed. The Trooper who arrested her, Adam Woxland, then directed another male officer to hold down her legs while Woxland observed. The court stated that “[t]here is no community interest in involuntarily catheterizing an emotionally distraught woman with a history of having been raped just to see if evidence exists to tack a drug ingestion charge onto an ironclad case of driving under the influence of alcohol”.
The court held that the process of involuntary catheterization was a violation of the Plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment rights, which protects citizens from unreasonable police searches and seizures.
In the instance of one of the Plaintiffs who was suspected of having ingested methamphetamine the court noted that “[a]lthough a blood test is inferior to a urine test in detecting past use of methamphetamine, the Fourth Amendment limits the ability of law enforcement to always get the best evidence, whatever the cost”.
The court dismissed the cases against the individual officers named in the suit, with the exceptions of Woxland for his role in administering the test on Alvarez.