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DPS Sued After Body Cavity Search On The Side Of The Road
"I was molested. I was violated. I was humiliated." Two Irving women are suing the Texas Department of Public Safety for what they call an ‘illegal and humiliating’ search.
It happened last July in Dallas County. Angel Dobbs and her niece Ashley Dobbs were stopped by a Texas State Trooper for tossing cigarette butts out the window. According to the lawsuit, the trooper told the women he smelled marijuana and searched their car. When the trooper didn't find any evidence of drugs, he called in a female officer to search the women.
"This is an eye-opening experience for me, ok. I've never been pulled over, never searched like this,” a slightly frantic Angel Dobbs is heard on dash cam video telling officers as she’s search on the side of the road.
Angel and Ashley say the search was a violation of their rights and a humiliating experience. In the video, a female trooper put on gloves and then began a body search of the women, on the side of the road, in full public view as cars drove by.
"At this point, I'm in clear shock. I can't even believe this is happening,” explained Angel Dobbs. “She turns me around goes down into the front of my pants into my inner thigh.”
The female trooper performs the same search on each woman, feeling around her bra and then searching inside their pants.
“At which point she goes up with two fingers,” remembers Angel. “I just look at her and say ‘Oh my God, I've just been violated.’"
KEYE TV showed the video of the traffic stop and search to criminal defense attorney Sam Bassett, who says in his 24 years as an attorney, he’s never seen a search happen like this one.
“Under the criminal law, if you had specific information that they were transporting drugs in their body cavity areas, that might be justified,” said Bassett. “But even then, I would think you'd do that in a private area. So the public nature of this is disturbing.”
Bassett says the search appears overly intrusive. He says there would need to be significant evidence to justify such a search.
But when asked about what the women could have done to prevent the search, Bassett said “Well, other than expressing your objection to it, you can't do much more in the situation.”
Bassett says to request privacy and state your objection, but he thinks the women are justified in filing a complaint and expects the publicity and lawsuit could help make significant changes in police policy.
"I wouldn’t never, ever want this to happen to anyone else again," said Angel Dobbs.
The female trooper who performed the search has been placed on paid-suspension pending the outcome of the lawsuit.
DPS spokesperson Katherine Cesinger told our affiliate in Dallas that troopers are “Obligated to act reasonably so as to comply with the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution as well as the Texas Constitution and other applicable statutory provisions. Any search that unreasonably invades the bodily integrity of a citizen is in violation of the Fourth Amendment and is therefore in violation of DPS policy."
We asked DPS to clarify exactly what that policy is when it comes to body searches, the spokesperson declined to comment.
By Karen Kiley