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Judge Approves $440k Forced Catheter Settlement


Three South Dakota municipalities and a former state highway patrol officer are collectively paying a $440,000 settlement for involuntary catheterizations.

A federal judge is approving the settlement.

The cities of Pierre, Sisseton and Wagner, as well as patrol officer Adam Woxland, will pay damages, legal costs and attorney’s fees.

US District Judge Roberto Lange approved the settlement, which found none of the search warrants obtained by police authorized involuntary catheterization.

The plaintiffs in the case said they were held down and subjected to involuntary catheterization after police obtained search warrants for urine samples to detect the presence of drugs.

The American Civil Liberties Union calls this instance a violation of the plaintiff’s fourth amendment right against unreasonable searches.

“I mean, this is a barbaric practice," says Libby Skarin with the ACLU of South Dakota.

She says there are other ways to collect urine samples.

“What the state is trying to do is get evidence of ingestion of drugs,” Skarin says. “Is this really something that our government should have the power to do in pursuit of charging someone with the crime of ingestion?”

South Dakota is the only state in the country where ingestion of a controlled substance is a felony.

A legislative committee met last year to look at the state’s criminal code. Ingestion was a topic heavily debated, but remains on the state books.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.