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Can Police Force Catheterized Urine Collection in DUI Cases?

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By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on July 18, 2016 12:59 PM

How determined should authorities be to collect evidence from a reluctant suspect? Should they be allowed to strap someone down on a hospital gurney and take urine using a catheter without the person's permission but with a warrant? What if the warrant doesn't specify catheterization but simply authorizes police to collect blood or urine generally?

These are the questions that one South Dakota defendant, Dirk Landon Sparks, is asking after undergoing a forced catheterization to collect his urine. He seeks to have the warrant quashed and the evidence against him suppressed, saying that the Constitution's Fourth Amendment reasonableness requirement makes no allowances for such an invasive procedure. Let's consider his claims.

The Fourth Amendment

Sparks' arguments drew the attention of the American Bar Association Journal, which cites local lawyers as saying this is not a rare situation in South Dakota. Forced catheterization happens when suspects refuse to give blood or urine in a DUI case. The constitutionality of the procedure is questionable, however.

The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution guarantees the right of the people to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and ensures that warrants are specific. Generally, if a judge signs a warrant authorizing a particular search or seizure, this authorizes police to obtain the evidence sought. But in a case like this one where the evidence sought is a bodily fluid and the manner of obtaining it is extremely invasive, the question of reasonableness naturally arises.

Forced Catheterization

According to South Dakota criminal defense lawyers, these forced catheterizations occur regularly when a suspect does not agree to provide the evidence voluntarily. Suspects are then strapped to a gurney without being anesthetized and a catheter is forced into the genitals to obtain urine.

That, some say, violates the reasonableness requirement of the Fourth Amendment, as the warrant authorizes obtaining the evidence but makes no mention of such an invasive procedure. The defendant's motion argues that authorities should have sought his blood as the next most reasonable attempt to collect evidence. If the court agrees with his claim, this could lead to changes state-wide in how DUI refusal cases are handled.

Accused?

If you have been charged with a DUI or any other crime, talk to a lawyer today. Many criminal defense attorneys consult for free or a minimal fee and will be happy to assess your case.

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