Imagine that you’ve had a nice evening out, highlighted by a fine dinner accompanied by a glass of wine. On your way home from the restaurant, however, you and your companion are rear-ended by another vehicle. Minutes later, an ambulance arrives and takes you to a nearby hospital. You are examined and treated in the emergency room.
Soon after the attending physician is finished, you are released — and promptly arrested by waiting police officers for DUI.
Unknown to you, the hospital had called the police and reported that blood tests taken as part of your medical examination revealed a blood-alcohol level over .08%.
They can’t do that, you say? This isn’t a police state? Consider a recent court decision from Oregon where exactly this situation happened…and continues to happen:
Feds Force Hospitals to Report Alleged DUI Patients to Police
Portland, OR. April 27 – This month, an Oregon Appeals court agreed with a district court ruling which forces first responders to become state actors.
"Oregon statue 676.260 says a health care facility “shall notify” a law enforcement officer in the course of treatment when a person’s blood alcohol level exceeds .08 percent or their blood contains a controlled substance."…
"As part of defendant’s medical treatment, hospital staff had drawn a sample of his blood and tested it, ascertaining that his BAC was .333 percent. After defendant refused to consent to a blood draw, Trooper Dunlap did not seek a warrant for a blood draw. Nor did he ask hospital staff for the results of the blood test. However, pursuant to their duty under ORS 676.260, hospital staff verbally disclosed to Dunlap that defendant’s BAC was .333 percent and Dunlap included that information in his police report."…
The District court ruled that police couldn’t violate a person’s Constitutional rights because it was the hospital that informed the police.
"After a hearing, the trial court denied defendant’s motion, concluding, as relevant here, that the hospital’s disclosure of defendant’s BAC test result to Dunlap did not violate defendant’s constitutional rights because it did not constitute state action."
"We need not, and do not, consider whether the fact that OR S676.260 required the hospital staff to disclose defendant’s BAC to law enforcement means that the disclosure constituted state action."…
In other words, it would have been a violation of the driver’s constitutional rights if a governmental agency had reported the test results. But the hospital was a private organization, and so there was no "state action" involved. Yet, it was a state law that forced that private organization to report the test and the results to the police.
(Thanks to Joe.)