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Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, December 6, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Colon-Cleansed Officer Has no Civil Rights Case

CHICAGO (CN) - A cop who desperately needed to use the restroom while at the scene of an alleged police theft was not illegally patted down, the 7th Circuit ruled.

Officer Montell Carter had taken Colonix, a colon-cleaning supplement for weight loss, in February 2009 while waiting for the tactical enforcement unit to green-light a police search of a Milwaukee residence.

At some point, the apartment's tenant interrupted the search to report that approximately $1,800 in cash was missing from his bedroom, a room that Carter and his partner Michael Lopez had inspected.

A supervisor gave the order by telephone to "freeze everything" until members of the department's Professional Performance Division arrived.

Feeling the effects of the Colonix, Carter approached supervising officer Lt. Keith Eccher and told him he needed to immediately leave to use the bathroom. Carter claims he did not want to use the bathroom at the apartment because it was very dirty.

Eccher responded that he needed to search Carter first to eliminate any suspicions before Carter could leave the scene. Eccher also searched Lopez before the two officers left the apartment.

"The dramatic ending to these events is, in fact, not dramatic at all," the 12-page judgment says.

Eccher did not find the missing cash on Carter, who returned to the police station and used the bathroom there.

Carter subsequently filed suit, however, claiming he was the victim of an unconstitutional search and seizure.

A federal judge in Wisconsin granted Eccher and Milwaukee summary judgment, and the 7th Circuit affirmed Wednesday.

"Carter and Lopez agreed to be searched so that Carter could return to the police station to use the restroom there," Judge Ann Williams wrote for a three-judge panel. "And Lieutenant Eccher agreed to let them leave despite the freeze order, so long as they were searched first. Although Carter may have felt it necessary to agree to the search because he needed to use the restroom badly, that does not mean he was seized by Eccher. A reasonable officer in Carter's position would not have feared arrest or detention had he not complied."

Because the seizure was not unlawful, the court did not need to reach whether Carter's pat-down and search was reasonable.

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