The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah has pushed back on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's attempts to access the state's prescription drug database without probable cause.
The ACLU requested to intervene in the DEA's case challenging a state law that would require them to have a warrant before obtaining records from the Utah Controlled Substance Database. The database contains tens of millions of prescription records for controlled substances, including highly sensitive personal information.
The DEA did not want to reveal why they wanted unfettered access and said its federal authority supersedes state laws. The ACLU maintains that level of access would open individuals up to the risk of warrantless searches and could prevent some from seeking necessary treatment because of privacy concerns.
“This uncovering of highly sensitive and deeply personal information would violate the reasonable expectation of privacy that doctors and patients have in their protected health information,” the ACLU said in its motion to intervene.
Utah created the database in 1995, and by September 2012 it had information on more than 47 million prescription records, ACLU's motion said. The state ultimately created greater protections for the information in 2015 after two firefighters were accused of prescription drug fraud. Those allegations stemmed from broad searches of database records.
The ACLU says that the DEA could determine individuals' medical conditions based on the database information, which would severely compromise their privacy and violate their Fourth Amendment rights.