When the State Can (and Can’t) Access Your Medical Records as Part of a Florida Criminal Investigation

If you’ve been arrested and charged with a crime in Florida, you should know what’re facing. You’ll most likely be facing  knowledgeable and capable prosecutors who are well-versed in using the legal system to get the information they want in order to make their case. They know how to phrase the requests they file with the court and make arguments in ways that generally persuade judges.

In order to defend yourself fully, then, you need legal representation that also knows how make (or oppose) requests effectively and make (or oppose) arguments persuasively. You need to be sure you have an experienced Tampa Bay criminal defense attorney on your side.

Consider the case of L.L. Actually, it was, at first, the non-case of L.L. In 2018, the state asked a judge to issue a subpoena for L.L.’s medical records. At that time, L.L. was not facing any criminal charges. The state argued that it needed the records as it had reasonable suspicion that the records held “information relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation.”

Specifically, the St. Petersburg police were investigating a Dec. 9, 2017 vehicle crash where they suspected that the driver who caused the crash was driving drunk. The responding officer told a second officer that the driver had “signs of impairment” and was being transported to an area hospital. The second officer traveled to the hospital, where he found a man in one of the trauma rooms who, the medical staff allegedly stated, had been yelling “No blood for police!” before he was sedated.

A link between the requested records and the crime is a requirement

The trial judge concluded that the state, based on the evidence presented, was entitled to L.L.’s records, but the Court of Appeal said that they were not. The key thing, in a case like this, is that individuals in Florida have a strong right to privacy and the state can only invade that privacy and do things like access your medical records in a very limited set of circumstances. To get your medical records in relation to an ongoing criminal investigation, the state must give the court enough evidence to demonstrate the existence of what the law calls a “nexus.” What that means is that the state must show that there is a clear connection between the crime being investigated and the medical records being requested.

In this case, the state didn’t have that. As the appeals court pointed out, they didn’t provide the court with a description of the scope of the records desired – only that they wanted all of L.L.’s “medical records and treatment.” That was problem number one. The state also failed to make an argument that L.L.’s records were relevant to the crime being investigated. That was problem number two for the state. Given those two problems, the state lacked the sort of clear linkage between the crime being investigated and the array of L.L.’s medical it requested. In the end, L.L.’s right to privacy prevailed and the state was not entitled to the records.

There is much more to protecting you in criminal matters than just making a trial presentation before a jury in a DUI case. The skilled Pinellas county criminal defense attorneys at Blake & Dorsten, P.A. know that and know how to provide effective representation to our clients at every step of the pre-trial, trial and post-trial processes. Call us today at (727) 286-6141 to schedule your FREE initial consultation.

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