Can an EMT tell police I have been drinking?
A common legal question that gets asked is: "Can an EMT tell the police I have been drinking?" All branches of emergency responders, whether it be an EMT, a firefighter, or a police officer, work closely together to serve and protect the citizens they help everyday. So naturally, the communication and trust between the different branches is very high.
When we attempt to answer this question, we walk into a sort of gray area. An EMT isn't legally required to tell any party about what they observe. There are a few things, however, that EMTs are allowed to do. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPAA) act provides certain rules and regulations for what and EMT can and cannot do with information they learn. HIPAA doesn't keep an EMT from telling someone who is deemed as a "necessary business associate". This is a blanket term that ends up including the police. It should also be noted that since any EMT you encounter will be trained in much the same way that police officers are when it comes to identifying whether or not someone is intoxicated. EMTs will most likely be able to tell if you are under the influence of a substance. Keep note that anything that an EMT observes is open to be used as evidence in a case but ultimately it is their choice, unless it turns into a legal issue.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability act does protect you in some ways too. HIPAA protects anything the EMT does on the way or in the hospital, therefore the information cannot be provided to the police unless the EMT is subpoenaed. These protections end if the police have probable cause that you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If this is the case, the police can subpoena a blood test from the EMT, that was performed at the hospital.
In the rarest of cases, the EMT will be subpoenaed due to the fact they were involved. An EMT will be classified as an expert witness in any case that has to do with a DUI. The EMT will then have to testify about how the accident happened and whether or not they believed the suspect(s) were under the influence of any substance at the time. The EMT can also give their opinion whether it was drugs or alcohol. The EMT would also have to explain how disoriented you or any other party they interacted with seemed to be.
Ultimately EMTs are here to help everyone. All forms of emergency services. The main point to take away from this is that an EMT can give away some information like what they witnessed and their opinion. However an EMT cannot give formal test results without a subpoena.
The best option to avoid a situation like this is to not use drugs or alcohol before entering a vehicle. If you do find yourself in this situation it is very important to understand your rights and what information can and cannot be released by an EMT. If possible you should also hire a lawyer, or have a consultation to attempt to find out exactly what the circumstances are.
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