U.S. Court In Texas Orders Medical
Center To Produce Records Of Blood Alcohol Test
A federal court in Texas denied a medical
center�s motion to quash a subpoena for production of a
defendant�s medical records where the defendant had been cited for
driving while intoxicated and took a blood alcohol test at the medical
Defendant, Diana Zamora, was criminally
charged with driving while intoxicated on federal property. In
connection with the charge, the government served a subpoena on Bay Area
Healthcare Group, Ltd. doing business as Corpus Christi Medical
Center-Bay Area (Bay Area) requesting Zamora�s medical records.
According to the government, Zamora was taken to Bay Area after she was
arrested and submitted to a blood alcohol test at the
Bay Area moved to quash the
subpoena, arguing that it is prohibited from disclosing the records
under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA),
Texas Health and Safety Code � 81.103, and 42 U.S.C. � 290dd-2 e.
A magistrate Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern
District of Texas denied the motion. The court first noted that HIPAA
allows disclosures of personal health information for law enforcement
purposes. According to the court, HIPAA
permits disclosures for law enforcement purposes to a law enforcement
official as required by law, or in compliance with "(A) A court order or
court-ordered warrant, or a subpoena or summons issued by a judicial
officer; (B) A grand jury subpoena; or (C) An administrative request,
including an administrative subpoena or summons, a civil or an
authorized investigative demand, or similar process authorized under
law...." 45 C.F.R. � 164.512(f)(1)(ii).
In the instant case, the subpoena was issued by a clerk of the court,
but the court found �no case law
directly addressing whether a clerk is a judicial officer for
purposes� of HIPAA. Looking at other jurisdictions that have
indirectly addressed the question, the court determined that a clerk is
not a judicial officer and therefore �the subpoena cannot be
enforced on that basis.�
Nevertheless, the court found that HIPAA
was not intended to serve as a means to evade criminal prosecution and
because the government�s response to the motion to quash could be
construed as a motion for a court order, the government may still be
able to access the records under � 164.512(f)(1)(ii)(A).
�Based upon the totality of the
circumstances and the evidence in the record, the government has
established probable cause justifying the production of the medical
records,� the court held.
The court also found that Bay Area�s argument that the records
are protected under 42 U.S.C. � 290dd-2 e, which protects confidentiality of records concerning a patient's
substance abuse or mental health treatment, must fail. The court found
that the government has shown good cause for production of the
records�the results of the blood alcohol test�which
outweighs any harm to Zamora in this case.
Thus the court denied Bay Area�s
motion to quash the subpoena.
United States v. Zamora, 2006 WL 45904 (S.D.Tex. Jan. 10,