from the another-brick-in-the-wall dept.
Submitted via IRC for Runaway1956
How private are your medical records? You'd think they'd be pretty damn private, considering Congress specifically passed a law regulating the disclosure of these sensitive records. Some states feel the same way, extending even greater privacy protections to things like prescription records.
[...] Seems pretty locked down, but as Leslie Francis and John Francis point out at the Oxford University Press blog, federal law enforcement agencies have undone both Congressional protections and state protections.
Utah's requirement for a warrant conflicts with the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which permits the DEA to issue administrative subpoenas for information relating to individuals suspected of violations of the CSA. According to a US Department of Justice report, administrative subpoenas may be issued by the agency without judicial oversight and without the showing of probable cause that would be required for a warrant.
When states provide more protections to residents than the federal government's willing to grant, it's often the state laws that lose, especially when controlled substances are involved. Such is the case here, at least so far. The DEA demanded the release of patient info/prescription records without a warrant, something forbidden by Utah law. The state objected to the DEA's records demand. The DEA responded by flexing its considerable federal muscle.
The DEA countered with the Supremacy Clause: valid federal laws are superior to conflicting state laws.
The court ended up agreeing with the DEA: patient info and prescription records aren't afforded additional privacy protections, no matter what HIPAA/state laws have to say about the matter.