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State v. Heaney

December 2, 2004

STATE OF MINNESOTA, APPELLANT,
v.
JOSEPH STEVEN HEANEY, RESPONDENT.



SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

Where blood-alcohol evidence is properly obtained under the law of the search jurisdiction, but the forum jurisdiction's physician-patient privilege statute would preclude its admission at trial, the evidence is admissible if the conduct of the police was not illegal under the statutes or constitutions of the forum or search jurisdictions and there is no statute or constitutional principle in the search jurisdiction that would make the evidence inadmissible.

A conflict of laws concerning the admissibility of evidence protected by the physician-patient relationship is resolved by applying the two-prong test set forth in Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws § 139 (1971).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Meyer, Justice.

Took no part, Anderson, G. Barry, J.

Reversed and remanded.

Heard, considered and decided by the court en banc.

OPINION

The district court suppressed blood-alcohol evidence in the vehicular homicide prosecution of Joseph Heaney on the ground that the evidence is privileged under Minnesota's physician-patient privilege, set forth in Minn. Stat. § 595.02, subd. 1(d) (2002). The state appealed, claiming that an exception to Wisconsin's medical privilege statute, allowing for the admission of this type of evidence, should apply because treatment and blood testing occurred in Wisconsin. The court of appeals affirmed the suppression of the blood-alcohol evidence. We reverse.

During the early morning hours of November 18, 2001, a Minnesota peace officer responded to a one-vehicle rollover accident in Houston County, Minnesota. The officer determined shortly after arriving at the scene of the accident that one of the vehicle's four occupants had died. Respondent, Joseph Heaney, admitted to the officer that he had been driving the vehicle involved in the accident and that he and his friends had been consuming alcohol earlier that evening. The officer administered a portable breath test to Heaney, resulting in a reading of.101. Heaney was transported by ambulance to the Gunderson Lutheran Medical Center in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, the closest available hospital for treatment of his injuries.

Shortly thereafter, a different Minnesota officer arrived at the medical center and read Heaney Minnesota's implied consent advisory, including the portion indicating that the officer had probable cause to believe Heaney had violated Minnesota's criminal vehicular homicide law. The officer then requested a blood sample for testing. Heaney initially consented to give a blood sample, but later withdrew his consent. The officer indicated his belief that he had a right to take a blood sample despite Heaney's refusal. Heaney eventually acquiesced to a urine test, which was administered nearly three hours after the time of the accident. Analysis of the urine showed that Heaney's alcohol concentration at the time of the test was.08.

The Minnesota officer later learned that before he arrived at the medical center and within two hours of the accident the medical center had obtained a blood sample from Heaney. Following Wisconsin statutory procedures, the officer then completed a request for production of certain items, along with a supporting affidavit, seeking a copy of Heaney's medical records and the blood sample. A deputy LaCrosse County Attorney filed this request at the LaCrosse County District Court. The court then issued a subpoena for documents as well as an order requiring the medical center to release the requested documents and the blood sample. The Minnesota officer served the subpoena on the medical center, after which Heaney's medical records and the blood sample were given to the officer. The report showed that Heaney's blood alcohol concentration was.144 within two hours of the accident. This result was independently confirmed at the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension lab in St. Paul, Minnesota.

On May 1, 2002, a complaint was filed in Houston County District Court charging Heaney with four counts of criminal vehicular operation resulting in death under Minn. Stat. § 609.21, subd. 1 (2002), as well as four counts of criminal vehicular operation resulting in substantial bodily harm under Minn. Stat. § 609.21, subd. 2 (2002). Both crimes require proof that the defendant drove while having an alcohol concentration of.10 or more, measured within two hours of the time of driving. At an omnibus hearing, Heaney sought to suppress the blood-alcohol evidence on the grounds that the evidence was obtained in violation of Minnesota's physician-patient privilege statute, Minn. Stat. § 595.02, subd. 1(d). The court granted his motion to suppress the hospital and laboratory blood-alcohol evidence because the evidence was obtained in violation of Minnesota's physician-patient privilege. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that under either lex fori or a "better rule of law" analysis, the district court correctly applied Minnesota's physician-patient privilege statute. State v. Heaney, 676 N.W.2d 698 (Minn. App. 2004).

The state sought review on the issue of whether Heaney's blood-alcohol evidence is admissible in Minnesota where the evidence was properly obtained under Wisconsin law but Minnesota's physician-patient privilege statute would preclude its admission at trial. We ...


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