Like all hospital records, blood alcohol tests are confidential in many situations. However, if you were arrested for drunk driving/DUI/DWI and sent to a hospital for blood alcohol tests, certain people are legally allowed access to those records. 

A person is has privacy rights to her records under the constitution, as well as a federal law known as HIPAA. The police can probably gain access to her records only by obtaining a search warrant from a judge. 

A search warrant requires probable cause to believe the hospital records include evidence that a crime such as a DUI was committed. The judge who issues the search warrant would need to know the basis for the officer’s knowledge to see if its even reliable before issuing the search warrant. 

What is HIPAA?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was enacted to reform healthcare in America. HIPAA has several objectives:

  • Protect health insurance coverage for working Americans who have pre-existing medical conditions when they change or lose their jobs;
  • Reduce healthcare fraud and abuse;
  • Enforce standards for health information; and
  • Guarantee security and privacy of health information.

Under the HIPAA rules, a patients hospital records would be protected unless the requesting party has a search warrant. 

Do Police Have Access to Hospital Records?

People have right to privacy and the right to be free from search and seizure, but this right is not always absolute. If you give the police consent to see your records, then they may use anything contained within those records as evidence against you in court such as evidence of your blood alcohol level that the hospital has.

In addition, if the police have probable cause to believe you were driving under the influence, they may take the information of your BAC that is in control and possession of the hospital by getting a warrant from the judge. They can then use this information against you in court.  

Who Has a Right to Access Your Hospital Records?

Access to hospital records can be allowed when there is a legal inquiry into the results of a blood alcohol test by: 

  • The Police: law enforcement officials can access your hospital records if they get a warrant from a judge. A judge will issue a warrant if the police show that there is reasonable cause to believe you violated drunk driving/DUI/DWI laws. Reasonable cause will be based on police officers’ observations at the time of your arrest.
  • The Victims: if you are alleged to have injured other persons because of your drunk driving/DUI/DWI, they may file a civil suit against you. In a civil suit, the victims can subpoena your hospital records to try and prove that you caused their injuries.
  • The Government: Under the Patriot Act, any government official with a warrant can obtain your hospital records for investigation against international terrorism.

Do I Need an Attorney?

If you are charged with violating drunk driving/DUI/DWI laws, or are being sued by others for allegedly causing their injuries in an accident, it is very important that you speak to a DUI/DWI lawyer with experiences in drunk driving/DUI/DWI cases immediately to protect your rights.