MEDIA ADVISORY: Utah Officials Violated Firefighters’ Constitutional Rights by Searching Prescription Records Without a Warrant, Public Citizen Tells 10th Circuit

Sept. 19, 2016


MEDIA ADVISORY

Utah Officials Violated Firefighters’ Constitutional Rights by Searching Prescription Records Without a Warrant, Public Citizen Tells 10th Circuit

49 States Have Databases Containing Patients’ Prescription Records; 31 Can Be Accessed Without Court Approval

WHAT: Before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, Public Citizen attorney Scott Michelman will argue that officials violated the constitutional rights of two Utah firefighters when the officials searched a state database of prescription records without a warrant. The outcome of the suit could determine whether warrantless searches of prescription records are considered legal in the six states under the 10th Circuit’s jurisdiction.

Public Citizen represents Salt Lake City-area firefighters Ryan Pyle and Marlon Jones. In 2013, the Unified Fire Authority discovered that opioids and other pain medications were missing from several of its ambulances. To investigate the crime, Utah law enforcement officials searched, without a warrant, the state database of prescriptions for controlled substances, looking at the records of 480 public paramedics, firefighters and other personnel, including Pyle and Jones.

The database, created in 1995, holds records of all prescriptions for controlled substances given to all Utah patients. It includes each patient’s name and the date, medication dosage and quantity of the prescription. Forty-nine states have similar databases; in 31 of those states, law enforcement agencies can search the databases without judicial approval or oversight.

As a result of the search in Utah, law enforcement officials learned private facts about Pyle’s and Jones’ prescription history, suspended them from work based on those facts, and then filed charges accusing them of wrongfully acquiring prescription medications from their doctors. Those charges were later dropped.

On behalf of Jones and Pyle, Public Citizen will argue that the warrantless searches of their prescription records violated their Fourth Amendment right, which bans unreasonable searches or seizures by police.

Learn more about the case.

The Ayres Law Firm of Draper, Utah, and the Legg Law Firm of San Mateo, Calif., serve as trial counsel for the plaintiffs and co-counsel on appeal.

WHEN: 9 a.m. MDT, Tuesday, Sept. 20

WHERE: Courtroom IV, The Byron White U.S. Courthouse, 1823 Stout St., Denver, Colo.

WHO: Scott Michelman, Public Citizen, appellate attorney for the plaintiffs

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