Balancing medical privacy and criminal prosecution
If HIPAA is violated, can any evidence obtained be used against you in a criminal proceeding?
According to a case in Maryland: yes.
John Wesley Hall Jr. of FourthAmendment.com writes:
Defendant’s BAC [blood alcohol level] level for DUI [driving under the influence] was obtained in violation of HIPAA since a trial subpoena was issued by the clerk without a court order, but the court refuses to suppress the evidence as a result because HIPAA does not require it. United States v. Elliott, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 122041 (D. Md. December 23, 2009):
Neither Sutherland nor Keshecki compel a finding that medical information obtained through the use of an improper subpoena under HIPPA’s law enforcement exception should be prohibited from use at trial. As mentioned above, HIPPA itself does not provide that medical information so obtained must be suppressed. The Court is unaware of any authority which compels the suppression of the records at trial. Nevertheless, the Court must still determine whether or not suppression is appropriate. Federal courts have acknowledged the importance of protecting a patient’s right to privacy in medical records. That right, however, is not absolute, and must be balanced against the government’s interests in obtaining the information. Sutherland,143 F. Supp. 2d 609, 611-612 (W.D. Va. 2001) As the court in Zamora observed “…HIPPA was passed to ensure an individual’s right to privacy over medical records, it was not intended to be a means for evading prosecution in criminal proceedings”. Zamora, 408 F. Supp. 2d at 298.
Applying a balancing test, the Court finds that the Government’s interest in obtaining records related to the defendant’s blood alcohol concentration on the day of the accident are compelling. Federal, state and local authorities have a strong interest in prosecuting people who drive while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. As the Supreme Court noted “No one can seriously dispute the magnitude of the drunken driving problem or the States’ interest in eradicating it.” Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444, 110 S. Ct. 2481, 2485, 110 L. Ed. 2d 412 (1990). “Drunk drivers cause an annual death toll of over 25,000 and in the same time span cause nearly one million personal injuries and more than five billion dollars in property damage.” Sitz, 110 S. Ct. at 2485-86. In this case the defendant was involved in a serious accident in which she suffered serious personal injuries. ….