2020 Bills

HB 117: Changing Access to Prescription Drug Records

This bill never received a vote.

Libertas Institute opposes this bill

Staff review of this legislation finds that it violates our principles and must therefore be opposed.

Update: We have had conversations about this bill with Representative Brooks, whose intent has been to find a way for law enforcement to more easily access information about potential abuse of opioid prescriptions. He has decided to abandon this bill for the 2020 legislative session. This is a controversial topic with many stakeholders who feel passionately about this issue, and we have offered to continue dialogue in the future—as we have with other interested legislators in the past—about potential reforms that can maintain privacy protections for innocent individuals.

Original post:

In 2013, some employees of the Unified Fire Authority (Utah’s largest fire agency) discovered that some vials of morphine stored in ambulances at a few fire stations had been emptied of their contents. The police were alerted, as theft was suspected—but instead of interviewing people who had access to those ambulances, the Cottonwood Heights Police Department searched and downloaded the prescription drug histories of every employee of the Unified Fire Authority. No warrant was issued in this search.

related lawsuit filed afterward sought to suppress the evidence, arguing that the warrantless search violated the Fourth Amendment. The court ruled in the defendant’s favor, and the state dropped its appeal; this was a victory for the Fourth Amendment.

Prosecutors and law enforcement officials, unsurprisingly, want to obtain this type of health information without a warrant in order to find probable cause to obtain a warrant.

In response, Senator Todd Weiler sponsored a bill in 2015 that required a warrant to access this medical information. But police officers have resisted this law. In 2018, Representative Ray Ward sponsored a bill that narrowly passed the House, and which failed in the Senate, which would have undermined the warrant requirement.

The latest proposal comes from Representative Walt Brooks, who is sponsoring House Bill 117 this year. As currently drafted, the bill removes the requirement that officers need to obtain a warrant to access prescription drug information for an individual as long as

  • the officer is a “designated officer” who investigates violations of drug laws;
  • the officer has registered with the government as the “designated officer” for their agency;
  • the officer’s agency has a “memorandum of understanding” with the government agency that manages the database; and
  • the officer follows any other rules created to govern this warrantless access.

While we sympathize with the desire to better investigate cases involving opioid abuse or other dangerous drug use, this is private information that is warehoused in a government’s database against the patient’s will; state law requires this information to be collected into the database.

Law enforcement should have the same restrictions on this digital data as they would if they wanted to look into a person’s physical medicine cabinet at home: they should have to get a warrant.

  • George M. Gutzmer

    Well I for one have been upset ever since I learned that The State of Utah had access to my medical records which are Federal VA without my knowledge. Now it is interesting that I am labeled as suspect without having done anything wrong and worthy of expenditures of monetary, physical, and personal assets to track me. I/E its like catch and release with a tracking collar . WHY ???? What have I done to incur the wrath of the powers that be. There is absolutely no reason for all these agencies to have access to my personal information especially without my knowledge and without a court ordered requirement with reason. The Idea that I am secure from unreasonable searches in my papers and person seems to have flown out the window with the blessing of those who are sworn to protect us. I have more, but this drains me.

  • Jim Little

    If you look at Walt Brooks voting record, you will see a fanatic authoritarian. This bill violates the fourth and fourteenth amendments and federal medical privacy laws. If enacted, even the current supreme court will have to vacate it.

    • Mustafa Curtess

      The USA has become a Police State – with the blessing and support of our conservative SCOTUS.

  • Dan Cooper

    Brooks is another RINO. voted 6 x’s his first 2 years for tax increase + giving the illegals the vote and now he is big on this evil tax restructuring fraud. he no longer answers my email. ok. I no longer vote for him. if he is for this bill, I am contrary to it. besides, does anyone read the constitution?

  • raynmakr

    This violates HIPAA, and as such should not become law.

  • how Is this not a HIPPA violation? That’s a minimum of $5k per record access fine, and should be the maximum of $25k PER EMPLOYEE RECORD accessed.

  • Ryan D

    Why not kill the bill, it’s ridiculous on many levels. Instead you are working with comrade Brooks to make changes?

  • Annie McElmurray Rollins

    This is crazy….they always think the worst and they are not medical professionals they have 6 month training….they are not educated enough to use nor access this information. The last people I want seeing my records

  • Stopher Russell

    Not only does this violate HIPPA, but there’s families like mine, who have a cop who won’t leave them alone and the last thing I want, is for them being able to access my families medical records whenever they want. The guy is basically obsessed with my wife and finds any reason he can, to make one of his cases, involve us. We’ve tried to get him fired for it a few times and our city’s pd, doesn’t seem to care.

    • Kimber Tolson

      That is straight up harassment and I would film each encouter and talk to a news agency

    • MYDOGDUKE2

      Citizens are always stone walled by the police, when they complain. Oddly if you bring in civilians to help you get those that hate all police and no one wants to work out a fair system. It seems cities routinely find money to pay law suits against bad police and nothing more is done.

  • echarleen

    Police at VAMC Spokane, Wash., were given access to veteran drug and alcohol records by volunteering for file clerk (GS4) overtime at their GS level, of course. Chief of Police and Asst. Chief. My husband reported to management and mental health chief of staff, who saw no problem with it. Local reporter… no interest.

  • F1 Rocket Engine

    Let them have them. This SHOULD prove that ‘opioid (opiate) thing’ was NEVER a manufacturing, or Doctor or Pharmacy OR PATIENT issue.

  • Mune Shadowe

    Of course some of the Officers who are LAZY and do not want to do the leg work required to OBTAIN the warrant will want the fourth amendment skipped over.

  • MYDOGDUKE2

    Damn that due process and right to privacy sure gets in the way of that swift and sure justice. Nazi Germany how peaceful and law abiding people could be with out these cumbersome administrative rules. sadly far to many think giving them up is the answer.

  • Stoned_Conservative

    The Police will abuse this like everything else they get. Any Republican who sponsors such a bill should be kicked out of the party. No exceptions.