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Circuit Court Considering Case Between DEA and the PDMP

A case before the ninth circuit court could affect how easily the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) can use administrative subpoenas to access the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP). The information obtained through that access may reveal details concerning individuals and that individual’s access to controlled substances.

At the beginning of November, the court heard arguments in Oregon Prescription Drug Monitoring Program v. United States DEA. The DEA is seeking the court to overturn a district court’s ruling stating the DEA’s use of administrative subpoenas in order to gain access to records from the PDMP violates the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth amendment protects people from unlawful searches and seizures. In other words, police may not search your house or your person without a warrant or probably cause.

The PDMP is a database that can be accessed by physicians or pharmacists to evaluate a need for or providing medical or pharmaceutical treatment for a patient. When the PDMP was created, it stated the information uploaded there constituted “protected health information.” Due to that classification, the information is protected under law and should only be disclosed under a court order based on a probably cause. The DEA is arguing they should be able to access the information through the easier-to-obtain administrative subpoenas.

Since almost every state has a PDMP, the decision could have far-reaching effects. The District court ruled that both patients and physicians should have a reasonable expectation of privacy concerning their prescription records and that the DEA’s use of the administrative subpoenas violates fourth amendment rights. Should the circuit court side with the district court, the DEA would continue to get a court-order search warrant in order to obtain information, which could extend to all law enforcement.

If you feel any of your rights, which are protected by the Bill of Rights, have been violated, you may want to speak with our experienced criminal defense lawyers. We are here to fight on your behalf.

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