Can The State Subpoena My Medical Records Following A Car Accident?
Federal law guarantees the privacy of a person’s healthcare records. But even medical privacy may be forced to yield to the demands of law enforcement. For example, if the police have grounds to suspect you have committed a crime, they may subpoena healthcare records that are reasonably related to their investigation.
This issue frequently comes up in DUI cases, especially when there has been an accident. Prosecutors will often seek a drunk driving suspect’s medical records to help prove they were legally intoxicated. And Florida courts tend to give prosecutors wide discretion in these situations.
Indeed, the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal recently reversed a trial court’s decision to refuse such a subpoena in a pending DUI case. The defendant in this case was driving when he collided with another car and ran his own vehicle into a pole. The local fire department responded at the scene. The defendant admitted to one of the Fire Department officers that he had been drinking.
The defendant himself suffered a head injury and was taken to a local hospital. There, the defendant consented to a blood draw by the medical staff. This blood draw was then turned over to law enforcement. Subsequent testing indicated the defendant’s blood-alcohol level was approximately twice the legal limit.
Prosecutors later asked a circuit court judge to issue subpoenas for the defendant’s medical records from both the fire department and the hospital. The prosecution wanted to see any toxicology reports prepared by the agencies, as well as written records of any statements the defendant made to emergency or healthcare personnel regarding his drinking. The defendant objected on privacy grounds. The circuit court split the difference, issuing a subpoena to the Fire Department but not the hospital. With respect to the latter, the judge said the prosecution already had what it needed from the blood draw.
The Fourth District disagreed. The appellate court said the medical records sought were clearly relevant to the state’s investigation. This was not a case where the prosecution was simply going on some sort of fishing expedition. To the contrary, the requested medical reports went beyond simply confirming the results of the blood draw–they also contained the observations of personnel who could serve as witnesses against the defendant.
Speak with a Florida DUI Defense Attorney Today
We frequently advise clients not to speak to the police when questioned about possible criminal activity. As this case illustrates, that also goes for any conversations you have with fire, rescue or medical personnel following an accident. While you should always seek medical care, you need to understand that any admissions regarding alcohol or drug use may be used against you at trial. Do not assume that the hospital will protect your medical privacy. When faced with a valid subpoena, they have to turn over relevant evidence to the state.
That is why the best thing you can do following a DUI arrest is to work with a Tampa criminal defense lawyer who will fight for your rights in court. Contact the Faulkner Law Group, PLLC, today if you require immediate assistance.