The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Atwood (Decided April 30, 2018, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Published) which stands for the proposition that a blood sample obtained by a doctor for purposes of medical treatment is not protected by the Minnesota Medical Privilege Statute.
In Atwood, the Defendant was in an ATV accident and was taken to the hospital for treatment. When the deputy sheriff arrived at the scene, he found the Defendant lying on the street in a pool of blood. The deputy smelled alcohol on the Defendant's breath. An ambulance then took the Defendant to the hospital for treatment.
The deputy learned that the Defendant was being transferred to another hospital for further treatment and he also learned the first hospital was storing a vial of the Defendant's blood.
The deputy obtained a search warrant to seize the vial of the Defendant's blood and a subsequent lab analysis revealed the Defendant's BAC was 0.155.
The Defendant was charged with two counts of fourth-degree driving while impaired. Prior to trial, the Defendant moved to suppress the blood sample and the subsequent BAC test results, invoking the physician-patient privilege pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 595.02, subd. 1(d). The district court granted the motion, reasoning that defendant's blood sample constituted "information" subject to Minnesota's physician-patient privilege.
The state appealed the district court and the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed the district court finding that the medical privilege statute does not encompass physical samples obtained for treatment.
In its decision the Minnesota Court of Appeals reasoned that:
"Minnesota's physician-patient privilege statute, in relevant part, provides that a "licensed physician . . . shall not, without the consent of the patient, be allowed to disclose any information or any opinion based thereon which the professional acquired in attending the patient in a professional capacity, and which was necessary to enable the professional to act in that capacity." Minn. Stat. § 595.02, subd. 1(d) (emphasis added). The state does not dispute that the physician acquired the blood sample to enable him to act in a professional capacity; rather, the state argues that the nature of a blood sample is outside this statute's scope because it is neither "information" nor "any opinion based thereon."
"Whether a physical blood sample is protected by Minnesota's physician-patient privilege is a statutory-interpretation issue of first impression. The goal of statutory interpretation is to effectuate the legislature's intent..."The present issue centers on the unambiguous term "information."
"Information" has been defined as "Knowledge or facts learned, especially about a certain subject or event." The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language 901 (5th ed. 2011). According to Webster's Dictionary, "information" is "something received or obtained through informing [such as:] knowledge communicated by others or obtained from investigation, study, or instruction^] knowledge of a particular event or situation [;] facts or figures ready for communication or use as distinguished from those incorporated in a formally organized branch of knowledge." Webster's Third New International Dictionary Unabridged 1160 (3d ed. 2002). Thus, information, by nature, is not physical and is about something. While information may be conveyed by way of a material object, such as a piece of paper, the medium by which information is communicated is not the information. On the other hand, a blood sample is material and does not, by itself, provide any information. That is, an individual cannot extract information about a patient solely by looking at a physical blood sample."
"The district court erred by applying Minn. Stat. § 595.02, subd. 1(d), to suppress respondent's blood sample as evidence. Because we conclude that a physical blood sample is not protected under Minnesota's physician-patient privilege statute, we reverse the district court's order granting respondent's motion to suppress that evidence."
The Court of Appeals did, however, note in a footnote that, "At oral argument, the state conceded that if the hospital had actually done a blood test, then those test results would be covered by the privilege because that would contain information communicating a blood-test result. We agree."
Moral Of The Story: If you give blood at a hospital, get it back!
If you or a loved one have been arrested for a Minnesota DWI or are facing the DWI forfeiture of your motor vehicle, feel free to contact Minnesota DWI Lawyer, F. T. Sessoms at (612) 344-1505 for answers to all of your Minnesota DWI and forfeiture questions.