Curious Cop Downloaded Hundreds of Private Prescription Records Because He Could

Nathan Freed Wessler of the ACLU writes:

Today, the ACLU and ACLU of Utah filed an amicus brief in support of a Utah paramedic whose Fourth Amendment rights were violated when police swept up his confidential prescription records in a dragnet search. Law enforcement’s disregard for basic legal protections in the case is shocking.

The United Fire Authority (UFA) is Utah’s largest fire agency, with 26 fire stations in communities surrounding Salt Lake City. Last year, some UFA employees discovered that several vials of morphine in ambulances based at three fire stations had been emptied of medication. Suspecting theft, they called the police. At this point, one would expect police to interview firefighters and paramedics with access to ambulances at those three stations and try to draw up a reasonable list of suspects. But one detective had a different idea.

Within a day or two of receiving the theft report, a detective with the Cottonwood Heights Police Department logged into the Utah Controlled Substances Database and downloaded the prescription histories of all 480 UFA employees. The database tracks patients’ prescriptions for medications used to treat a long list of common medical conditions, and the records can reveal extremely sensitive health information. But unlike some other states, Utah doesn’t require police to get a warrant before accessing this private data. The detective took advantage of this loophole and obtained a great deal of confidential information without going to a judge or demonstrating any individualized suspicion.

Read more on ACLU.

About the author: Dissent

2 comments to “Curious Cop Downloaded Hundreds of Private Prescription Records Because He Could”

You can leave a reply or Trackback this post.
  1. Anonymous - April 16, 2014

    Unfortunately there are too many cops and prosecutors that disregard both facts and rights in their effort to be “Top Cop” or that Prosecutor with an enviable conviction rate. I started my career in the medical field and subsequently combined the clinical experience with a law degree. The study of criminal procedure was a real eye opener and I have not looked at either cops or prosecutors in the same way since studying that topic. Additionally, I have a sibling who has practiced criminal law for 30+ years and while many of his criminal clients certainly earned their arrests and were deserving of subsequent penalties I have also had the opportunity to learn that the types of activities I read about in the crim pro cases involving law enforcement and prosecutorial misconduct are repeated with a disgusting frequency in real life.

    • Anonymous - April 16, 2014

      In this case, the fish rots from the head. Why are there no laws regulating such access or use of prescription records? That’s utterly shameful.

Comments are closed.