CRIME
12/20/2013 12:57 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

Woman's Body Cavities Searched Illegally In New Mexico: Federal Lawsuit

What started as a random screening by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents quickly became an invasive, illegal body cavity search on a New Mexico woman, a federal lawsuit charges.

Papers filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court in El Paso say the 54-year-old woman -- a U.S. citizen -- was strip-searched by agents in Dec. 2012, KOAT reports. The unnamed woman was taken in handcuffs to a nearby hospital, where doctors subjected her to illegal body cavity probes and an observed bowel movement, according to the lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

No drugs were found on the woman, but the hospital sent her a $5,000 bill anyway, according to the ACLU. On top of the observed bowel movement, the woman was forced to undergo an X-ray, an exam of her rectum and vagina, and then a CT scan.

"In the lawsuit, we are bringing it to challenge those searches," Senior ACLU Staff Attorney told KPBS. "Securing the border has become an excuse for outright abandonment of Constitutional principles that protect our privacy and our dignity. And enough is enough."

The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount in compensatory and punitive damages. Roger Maier, a spokesman for the customs agency, said he wouldn't comment on pending litigation, the Associated Press reports.

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