Normally, police officers must get a warrant signed by a judge to have the authority to draw your blood when they have arrested you on suspicion of DUI. Suppose, however, that emergency medical personnel transport a person to the hospital following a motor vehicle accident and law enforcement authorities suspect that the person was intoxicated or under the influence of drugs at the time of the accident. In this situation, are the police entitled to access the results of the blood tests that the hospital performed purely for medical diagnosis purposes or use the blood drawn by the hospital to perform independent testing without a search warrant? The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which is the highest state court that hears criminal cases, recently issued a ruling on this issue.
According to the court, individuals have no expectation of privacy in the results of blood tests performed by hospital personnel following an accident. HIPAA, the federal law that protects an individual’s right to privacy with respect to his or her medical records, has an exception for grand jury subpoena. Therefore, the state can use a grand jury subpoena obtain the individual’s medical records, including the results of any blood tests performed by the hospital without a need to obtain a search warrant.
However, individuals do have an expectation of privacy in the disposition of the blood drawn by the hospital. As a result, the police do need a warrant to take blood samples that the hospital has drawn for medical purposes if they wish to test the blood for the presence of alcohol or drugs. If police fail to obtain a warrant prior to obtaining and testing the blood, there is a violation of the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure. The criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal defense of countless individuals who are facing criminal charges, including charges involving bribery. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf in order to get the best outcome possible in your case. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our criminal defense attorneys today.