Unwarranted drug database search prompts new Utah law, lawsuits


Utah allows law enforcement unregulated access of any person’s private medical history in the database without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, according to the complaint filed this week in U.S. District Court.

“In reality, there is zero oversight of how the database is being used by law enforcement. As a result, law enforcement is able to circumvent a person’s privacy rights on a whim by searching for that person on the database,” the lawsuit says…

Jones’ ordeal began after Unified Fire Authority reported to police that vials of morphine, fentanyl and midazolam were taken from ambulances in southeast Salt Lake Valley. Cottonwood Heights Police Chief Robbie Russo gave detective James Woods the names of 480 firefighters, including Jones’ name, to investigate regarding the missing medication. Russo got the list from Mayor Kelvyn Cullimore, a Unified Fire Authority board member, according to the lawsuit.

Woods determined through the database that Jones was dependent on opiates and seeing three different doctors. The detective then interviewed the doctors and pharmacists about Jones’ medical conditions and treatment. The detective reported his findings to the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office, which charged Jones with 14 counts of obtaining a prescription under false pretenses, a third-degree felony.

Jones, 50, was being treated for a back injury suffered in an accident and two knee replacements, Ayres said. His doctors were aware of each other and didn’t think he was abusing prescription drugs, according the lawsuit. Ayres said Jones never sought medication that was not prescribed to him nor has he abused it any way.

Prosecutors also filed felony prescription fraud charges against paramedic Ryan Pyle as a result of the database search. Those charges were later dropped. Pyle, too, has a federal lawsuit pending against Cottonwood Heights. No one was charged with stealing narcotics from the ambulances after the investigation…

A month before Jones’ trial was to start in 3rd District Court in November 2014, prosecutors dismissed the charges against him…

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