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Woman Subjected to Cavity Search Files Civil Rights Suit

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A woman detained in county jail for nearly two weeks and subjected to a body cavity search has filed a lawsuit in federal court, contending that her civil rights were violated.

According to court paperwork filed earlier this month and first reported by Seacoast Online, Robyn White, 44, of Avon, Maine, alleges that New Hampshire State Police pulled her over on I-95 on Feb. 10, 2017 for snow covering her rear lights.

White alleges police then searched her purse without her consent, and found a small amount of heroin. She claims that state troopers then contacted the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office in Maine and was told that six months prior, a woman was arrested for hiding oxycodone pills in her vagina.

It’s unclear if officers believed White was the same woman, but she alleges she was then transferred to Strafford County jail for a body scan. 

That scan, according to her suit, showed two “abnormalities” in her intestinal region, though the official record of the scan says “no foreign objects detected.”

Law enforcement filed an additional charge of “delivery of articles prohibited” and raised her cash bail from $250 to $5,000. On Feb. 14, White was transferred to Valley Street Jail in Manchester, where she took a drug test, which was negative. The next day, she was transferred to Rockingham County jail and held for another seven days. 

On Feb. 22, prosecutors dropped the additional charges, but according to the lawsuit, a circuit court judge ordered another body scan before she could be released. That scan occurred on Feb. 23, when corrections officers at the Strafford County jail claimed they saw another “abnormality.”

Following that scan, she was transferred to Rockingham County jail and was told law enforcement was seeking a warrant for a vaginal and rectal exam. White, according to her suit, agreed to have the exam performed immediately rather than wait for the warrant.

That evening, she was brought to Wentworth-Douglass Hospital where a doctor performed an invasive exam. After that test yielded no foreign substances, White was released, 13 days after her initial arrest.

Several months later, according to the lawsuit, White received a bill for an unknown amount from the hospital for “emergency services.” 

Wentworth-Douglass says it is investigating the claims made in the lawsuit. The hospital, along with the doctor who performed the exam, multiple New Hampshire State Troopers, as well as Rockingham and Strafford counties, are all named defendants in the civil suit. 

White’s attorney, Larry Vogelman, said his client is seeking monetary damages.

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.

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