Warrantless searches of medical records

United States Department of Justice v. Michelle Ricco Jonas | ACLU of New Hampshire – May 2019

I’m glad to see someone is standing up for patients against having their medical data available for warrantless DEA searches.

On May 29, 2019, the ACLU of New Hampshire and New Hampshire Medical Society filed a federal court amicus brief to support the State’s defense of patients from warrantless searches of medical records.

Also filed by the national ACLU and four other ACLU affiliates, the brief is part of the federal case U.S. Department of Justice v. Jonas, and explains that not only are these types of unjustified searches unconstitutional, but that they can have adverse consequences and deter patients from receiving needed medical care.   

New Hampshire received a warrantless search demand from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for two years of a patient’s PDMP records last year.

The N.H. Department of Justice correctly and courageously refused to comply, because doing so would violate the state law requiring a warrant and infringe on privacy rights.

After the DEA sued in court, they stood firm, arguing that the subpoena was improper under federal law and the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  The ACLU/Medical Society’s amicus brief supports the N.H. Department of Justice’s position.

A 2018 U.S. Supreme Court case, Carpenter v. United States, held that police needed a warrant to obtain historical cell phone location data of an individual.

The Supreme Court rejected the government’s argument that any time a person shares sensitive records with another entity, that person loses their constitutional right against unreasonable searches and seizures.

This is the same argument the DEA makes in this case, only with medical records instead of location data.


4 thoughts on “Warrantless searches of medical records

  1. Kathy C

    Finally! We really don’t know what they are doing with that data, or any of our medical information. In my state, they took 500K of the opioid money away from treatment, where is was sorely needed, and put it into the PDMP. Our state has has a PDMP since 2011, and it did nothing to lower the rates of heroin overdose. Of course our state was at the “Forefront” since we already had people using heroin since the 1990s. Those people had children, and now we have generational drug abuse. In one of the opioid deaths, a young man had grandparents and parents who were heroin addicts, and they still blamed prescription drugs.

    Liked by 2 people


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