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When Can a Prosecutor Not Subpoena Your Medical Records in a DUI Manslaughter Case?

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In the case of Juan Guardado versus the State of Florida, Mr. Guardado was involved in a three-vehicle crash.  Two of the passengers in Guardado’s car were killed.  When a Trooper from the Florida Highway Patrol arrived at the scene of the accident, he saw Guardado in the driver’s seat with injuries to his face, and the two passengers in Guardado’s car appeared to be dead. Guardado was taken to a hospital where the Trooper asked hospital personnel to take blood samples from Guardado in order to find out if he  had been drinking alcohol or taking drugs before the accident occurred.  Those samples were sent to the medical examiner’s office where it was determined that Guardado’s blood-alcohol level at the time of the accident was more than twice the legal limit.  Guardado was later charged with DUI manslaughter.

The prosecutor’s office notified Guardado that it intended to subpoena his medical records from the hospital so that it could show the jury that his blood-alcohol level was above the legal limit at the time of the accident.  Guardado objected.  At the hearing that was held on Guardado’s objection, the prosecutor acknowledged that the Trooper did not have probable cause to request that blood samples be taken from Guardado at the hospital.  Nevertheless, the prosecutor argued, the hospital still had a right to draw Guardado’s blood because of the injuries he sustained in the accident, and it was that evidence that the prosecutor wanted access to.

On appeal, the court said that the prosecutor should not have been allowed to get Guardado’s medical records because the only evidence it relied upon to get those records was the Trooper’s illegal request for blood samples at the hospital.  The prosecutor did not present any lawful evidence such as police reports that established a connection between the blood samples taken by the hospital for medical reasons and the accident investigation.  Therefore, the prosecutor should not have been allowed access to Guardado’s medical records.