Forced laxative OK for drug suspect, Wis. court finds


By TODD RICHMOND
Associated Press Writer

MADISON, Wis.- Police officers who forced a drug suspect to drink a laxative in hopes of recovering a swallowed bag of heroin were within their rights, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

Reversing an appeals court decision, the high court said police had a clear expectation that the laxative would help reveal evidence of a crime.

The laxative also may have reduced any danger to Tomas Payano-Roman if the bag had ruptured in his body, the decision said.

Payano-Roman's attorney, Tim Provis, called the decision a defeat for civil rights and said he was considering a federal appeal.

"The average person walking the streets of Milwaukee _ they'd say, 'Gee, cops shouldn't be able to do that.' Now the Supreme Court says go right ahead," Provis said.

In 2002, a Milwaukee County sheriff's deputy who was on a drug stakeout approached Payano-Roman and saw him swallow what looked like a plastic bag, according to court documents.

After Payano-Roman was arrested, medical workers decided he should take a laxative, and an officer gave him six doses. The next day, officers retrieved the plastic bag, and Payano-Roman was convicted of heroin possession, the records say.

A state appeals court ruled the laxative amounted to an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment, but the high court disagreed.

In a dissent, Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson noted that six hours passed between the arrest and administration of the laxative and questioned why officers didn't get a search warrant.

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On the Net:

http://www.courts.state.wi.us

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