Most people who are familiar with medical privacy laws know that a person’s medical records are confidential and can only be disclosed with the patient’s permission or under other limited circumstances. However, records of prescriptions for controlled substances (such as Oxycodone and Oxycontin) do not share the same privacy protections. In fact, police seeking a person’s pharmacy records relating to controlled substances do not even need a subpoena or other court order. They can simply call the pharmacy and request a person’s prescription records relating to controlled substances and say that the request is pursuant to their enforcement of the law. A statute in Florida requires pharmacies to keep prescription drug records for at least two years and allow police to inspect those records where the police officers are enforcing the laws. A court order is not needed, and there is no requirement to notify the patient in advance. The way the statute is worded, basically any investigation by the police is good enough to allow the police access to a person’s controlled substance prescription records going back at least two years.
In a recent criminal case of obtaining prescription drugs by fraud south of Jacksonville, Florida, the defendant created a fake prescription for Oxycodone and presented it to the pharmacy. He received 30 pills of Oxycodone. The pharmacy later checked the prescription and saw that the doctor’s name was incorrect. The pharmacist called the police to report the crime of obtaining prescription drugs by fraud. The police officer asked the pharmacy for all of their records relating to the defendant without first getting a search warrant or consent from the defendant. The pharmacy complied without notice to the defendant. The police officer confirmed that the prescription was fake and the defendant had in fact received the Oxycodone from the pharmacy. The defendant was arrested and charged with the felony crime.
The criminal defense lawyer for the defendant tried to have the pharmacy record evidence thrown out alleging that the search and seizure of the defendant’s pharmacy records violated his privacy rights and the Fourteenth Amendment. However, the court found the police officer’s conduct to be proper based on the Florida statute which allows the police to obtain pharmacy records of controlled substances when they are relevant to a criminal investigation.