People v. Sykes, 2017 IL App (1st) 150023 (December). Episode 439 (Duration 9:13)
Cops help hold her down while they force catheterize her, was this an illegal seizure after they captured and tested her urine?
Ladina Sykes and her two children were leaving a beach in Evanston when their car struck a wall in the parking lot. At the hospital they hold her down to take her urine. She was found guilty and placed on supervision after cannabis was detected in her urine.
Sykes was deemed mentally unable to provide consent, so when she refused to provide a doctor-ordered urine sample, a nurse catheterized her while several people, including two Evanston police officers, held her down because she was being physically uncooperative.
Paramedics took Sykes to Evanston Hospital.
The paramedics took Sykes to Evanston Hospital, where a triage nurse assessed her condition. She was stable and had no complaints but was deemed to have an altered mental state because even though she was alert and oriented as to person and place, she did not know the date or time of day.
Officer Pratt told hospital staff he suspected Sykes was under the influence of something. Pratt was standing outside Sykes’s room when he heard her tell the nurse she had one alcoholic drink that evening. He went in her room and asked her if she had been drinking. She told Pratt she had not been drinking or taking any drugs.
Pratt arrested her for driving under the influence, based on the odor of alcohol, slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, and overall demeanor.
Pratt asked Sykes to provide blood and urine samples, and she declined. He did not ask hospital staff to obtain samples for him.
The Hold Down
Dr. Patel examined Sykes and ordered a CT scan and blood and urine tests to determine why Sykes was in an altered mental state and to decide on a proper course of treatment. The urine test, in particular, would determine if she had drugs in her system. Colleen Costello, the supervising nurse, asked Sykes for a urine sample. Sykes refused. Costello then decided to catheterize her. Costello said patients can refuse treatment unless, like Sykes, they have an altered mental state. When Costello began the catheter procedure, Sykes was combative, swinging her arms, kicking her legs, and moving her hips to resist catheterization. She also tried to get out of the bed. Costello called for assistance, and about nine people responded, including Evanston police officers Pratt and Magnas, who had been standing outside the room.
Pratt and Magnas stood at the head of the bed and held Sykes down by her shoulders. Once Sykes was restrained, Costello extracted the urine with a catheter.
The blood and urine tests were sent to the hospital lab. Sykes’s blood test showed she was well within the legal limit for alcohol, and her urine test was presumptively positive for cannabis and PCP.
After Sykes’s CT scan showed no evidence of injury and her mental state improved, Evanston Hospital discharged her into police custody.
Sykes contends her conviction should be vacated because the police violated her fourth amendment rights by holding her down while a nurse forcibly catheterized her.
Sykes argued the Evanston police officers’ participation in the forcible extraction of her blood and urine to test for drugs or alcohol, without a warrant, was an illegal search and the results of the search should be suppressed.
Sykes first contends the police violated her fourth amendment rights by actively participating in her forced catheterization. While Sykes concedes the police did not order the catheterization, she asserts they participated in an unconstitutional search by helping to hold her down while a nurse catheterized her. She contends that because the police did not have a warrant and no exceptions to the warrant requirement exist, the results of the urine test should have been suppressed.
The fourth amendment applies only to government action.
A search performed by a private person does not violate the fourth amendment. Additionally, the fourth amendment does not prohibit the government from using information discovered by a private search. The State argues the catheterization was ordered and conducted by private actors, namely Dr. Patel and nurse Costello, respectively.
This Was Purely A Medical Procedure
The State asserts that because Sykes was found in her car unconscious and arrived in the emergency room in an altered mental state, hospital staff determined the tests were medically necessary.
The State acknowledges Sykes could have withheld consent to either test had she been oriented as to time, place, and person. Nurse Costello testified that the treatment plan for Sykes, which included a CT scan and a blood test, in addition to the urine test, was ordered by Dr. Patel.
Nurse Never Talked To Cops
The evidence did not show that the police asked hospital staff to perform a urine test. Indeed, Costello testified that she never spoke to the police that night. Evanston Hospital staff did not perform the catheterization as the agents of the police. The test was ordered for medical purposes unrelated to any possible charges filed by the police.
Cops Just There
The fact that the officers were present, had placed Sykes under arrest, and were called on to assist did not turn the medical procedure into state action. They were in the room only because nurse Costello asked for their assistance restraining Sykes so that she not injure herself or others.
The officers did not insist or even request they be permitted in the room during the procedure.
Cops Could Have…
A more compelling case for state action would involve the officers offering to hold Sykes down or insisting on being in the room in anticipation of obtaining test results that could be used to prosecute her. It was not unreasonable for the officers to come to the aid of a nurse seeking help with a patient who might harm herself and others.
Procedure Not Dependent On Cops
Moreover, the catheterization was not dependent on the officers’ participation. The officers responded to Costello’s request for help; there is no evidence in the record that but for the officers’ presence, the catheterization procedure would have been abandoned.
While the officers could have declined the nurse’s request, their slight involvement did not turn the medical procedure ordered by private individuals into State action.
Thus, the trial court did not err in denying her motion to suppress the results of her urine test.
- Episode 423 – People v. Brooks, 2017 IL 121413 (November), (our supreme court recently held that mere police participation, absent the private actors acting as an agent or instrumentality of the State, is not state action)
- Episode 319 How Can Police Enforce A Blood Warrant | A Discussion With Anthony Cameron
- Episode 438 – People v. Eubanks, 2017 IL App (1st) 142837 (December)
- Episode 186 – Birchfield v. North Dakota, 136 S. Ct. 2160, 2174 (2016)
- Illinois DUI Reference Page