Exclusive investigation: Your prescriptions aren’t private https://shar.es/1wi0k8 via @sharethis
Their lives were almost ruined
“I could have lost my family, I could have lost my career,” said Marlon Jones, an assistant fire chief with the Unified Fire Authority of Salt Lake County, Utah. Jones says he was falsely charged with felonies related to doctor shopping as a result of a warrantless search by local police in Cottonwood Heights.
Investigators were looking into the theft of prescription drugs from area ambulances. With no suspects, no probable cause and no warrant, a police officer working the case logged into Utah’s controlled substance database and searched the prescription drug records for all 480 fire department employees.
“I had no idea that a police officer, just on a whim, could go into my medical records and then determine what’s appropriate, in his opinion,” recounted Ryan Pyle, a fellow firefighter paramedic whose prescription records got swept up in the same warrantless search.
Police never made an arrest in the drug thefts but instead zeroed in on the prescription histories of Jones and Pyle and charged them with acquiring controlled substances under false pretenses. The charges had nothing to do with the crime police were initially investigating.
“It impacted every bit of our lives,” said Jones, who was placed on suspension just months after having been promoted. “What (the investigator) did threatened to take everything I held dear.”
Pyle’s arrest came as he and his wife were in the middle of adopting two boys. “When I was initially charged, that’s the first thing I thought of: We’re going to lose these kids,” he said.
Kelvyn Cullimore Jr., the mayor of Cottonwood Heights, said police followed proper protocol and used the tools they had available.
“We would not do anything that would go beyond the bounds of what the law allows,” he said. “We were acting purely according to the way the state law permitted.”
In hindsight, Cullimore said, police could have conducted a more narrowly tailored search, but he said sees no problem with warrantless searches if state laws allows them.
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