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State v. Atwood

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

April 30, 2018

State of Minnesota, Appellant,
v.
Heath Allen Atwood, Respondent.

          Murray County District Court File No. 51-CR-16-281

          Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Travis J. Smith, Murray County Attorney, (for appellant)

          William J. Wetering, (for respondent)

          Considered and decided by Connolly, Presiding Judge; Reilly, Judge; and Reyes, Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         The seizure of a patient's blood sample pursuant to a search warrant addressed to a hospital does not violate the statutory physician-patient privilege because a blood sample collected by the hospital as part of medical treatment does not constitute "information" under the plain language of Minn. Stat. § 595.02, subd. 1(d) (2016).

          OPINION

          CONNOLLY, JUDGE.

         The district court granted respondent's motion to suppress a blood sample that had been taken from respondent by a medical professional because the blood sample was protected by Minnesota's physician-patient privilege pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 595.02, subd. 1(d). Because a blood sample does not fall within the plain meaning of "information, " the district court erred in determining that a blood sample is subject to the statutory physician-patient privilege. Accordingly, we reverse and remand.

         FACTS

         On June 10, 2016, a Murray County Deputy Sheriff responded to an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) accident. When the deputy arrived, he saw an ATV that looked as though it had been in a collision and respondent Heath Allen Atwood bleeding from his head, lying on the street in a pool of blood. While the deputy was stabilizing respondent's head to prevent further injury, he smelled alcohol on respondent's breath. An ambulance took respondent to the hospital.

         On his way to the hospital, the deputy stopped at the sheriff's office to get a copy of the Minnesota implied-consent advisory form. At the hospital, a doctor asked the deputy to refrain from reading the implied-consent advisory to respondent because the doctor was attempting to keep respondent calm. The doctor also told the deputy that respondent was receiving a blood transfusion. Respondent was flown to another hospital for further treatment. The deputy did not read the implied-consent advisory to respondent. The deputy subsequently learned that the hospital was storing a vial of respondent's blood taken prior to the transfusion in the hospital lab. He then obtained a search warrant to seize the vial and submit it for testing.[1] Subsequent lab analysis revealed that respondent's BAC was 0.155.

         Respondent was charged with two counts of fourth-degree driving while impaired. Prior to trial, respondent 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 respondent's motion, reasoning that respondent's blood sample constituted "information" subject to Minnesota's physician-patient privilege. The state appeals the suppression order in a pretrial appeal.

         ISSUE

         Is a blood sample "information" for purposes of Minn. Stat. ...


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