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Florida Fourth DCA rules in criminal vehicular homicide case that State was not entitled to subpoena defendant’s hospital records following the incident because there was not a “reasonable founded suspicion” that the defendant had been intoxicated

On December 2, 2020, in Rodriguez v. State of Florida, No. 4D20-2010, the Florida Fourth DCA granted the certiorari petition of a defendant in a pending vehicular homicide case and quashed a trial court ruling allowing the State to subpoena the defendant’s hospital and paramedic records from the date of the incident. The Fourth DCA noted that there were no drugs or alcohol found in the defendant’s car and there was no mention in the crash report that the defendant was under the influence of alcohol or drugs when he made statements at the scene of the accident to medical personnel. The defendant declined to give a statement at the scene to law enforcement, but the officer did not document any signs of impairment and did not ask the defendant to submit to blood testing.  Witnesses at the scene also did not report smelling any alcohol on the defendant or observing and other signs of intoxication. The Fourth DCA stated that since medical records are protected by a constitutional right of privacy as well as protective statutes, the State must demonstrate a reasonable founded suspicion that the medical records contain information relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation. The trial court had authorized the subpoena on the sole ground that because the probable cause affidavit alleged that the defendant was driving in a reckless manner – going twice the speed limit and making no attempt to slow down prior to impact – that blood and urine tests would be relevant to the question of carelessness.  The Fourth DCA stated: “[w]e disagree that every reckless driving incident creates a compelling state interest to obtain toxicology records. There must be some reasonable founded suspicion that alcohol or drugs were involved, such as someone smelling alcohol, drug or alcohol containers in the vehicle, or statements or evidence which might suggest drug use or alcohol intoxication. Here, there is nothing to suggest any alcohol or drug involvement. There is merely a bare suspicion, not a reasonable founded suspicion.”

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