In a recent criminal case near Jacksonville, Florida, the defendant was charged with obtaining prescription drugs by fraud, which is a felony crime. This crime is actually more common these days as more people gain access to various prescription drugs. Many police departments have special units designed to make arrests relating to illegal possession and sale of prescription drugs.
In this case, the police received a tip that the defendant was doctor shopping. Doctor shopping involves a person going to different doctors to obtain the same or similar prescriptions. The suspect will not tell the subsequent doctor that he/she has already seen a previous doctor to obtain the same or similar prescription. The suspect will then obtain multiple prescriptions to be filled at different pharmacies to obtain a larger quantity of prescription drugs.
Pharmacies keep computer files of patients, their prescriptions, the dates prescriptions were filled and the doctors who prescribed them for at least two years. The police in this case obtained the computer printout for the suspect from the pharmacy without a subpoena or court order and saw that she had multiple prescriptions for drugs from different doctors in a short period of time. The prescriptions were for common drugs like Oxycontin and Oxycodone. The police then obtained the prescriptions and showed them to the prescribing doctors who indicated they did not know of the other prescriptions when they wrote their particular prescription.
After being charged with the crime for obtaining prescription drugs by fraud, the criminal defense lawyer filed a motion to suppress the evidence of the different prescriptions because the police did not get a search warrant before obtaining that information from the pharmacies. The criminal defense attorney argued that prescription drug information is private, and a court order, or subpoena, is required before such information can be released.
In Florida, one’s medical records are private and are protected from unreasonable searches and seizures. Neither a police officer nor anyone else can look at another person’s medical records without express permission or a court order. However, controlled substance records at a pharmacy do not carry the same privacy protections in Florida. In fact, Florida law specifically allows the police to obtain a person’s pharmacy records without a subpoena or search warrant and without notifying the patient in advance. Therefore, if the police are involved in an investigation of a person relating to prescription drugs that are controlled substances (such as Vicodin, Percocet, Xanax, Oxycontin and many other common drugs), they may be able to look into your pharmacy records without your knowledge.