Utah law directs the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing to create and maintain a state Controlled Substance Database of all prescriptions for controlled substances filled at pharmacies in the state. Pharmacists are required to report patients’ prescription records to the Database. These prescription records can reveal private information about a person, in particular, whether the person suffers from certain medical conditions.
In 2013, to investigate the theft of medicines from ambulances belonging to a Salt Lake City-area fire department, local police used the Database to obtain, without a warrant or any individualized suspicion, the records of all 480 employees of the fire department. Two of the employees were fire fighter Ryan Pyle and Assistant Fire Chief Marlon Jones. As a result of the search, defendants learned that both men were taking pain medications. Although Pyle and Jones were taking medications lawfully prescribed by their doctors, the police decided that they were taking too many medications. Based on the records obtained from the database, Pyle and Jones were suspended them from their jobs and subjected to lengthy prosecutions, which were all eventually dismissed.
Pyle and Jones each sued the police department for violating their rights under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The district court dismissed their cases. Both men appealed, and the cases were consolidated for purpose of appeal.
Public Citizen represented Pyle and Jones on appeal to the Tenth Circuit. The court, however, affirmed the district court’s decisions.