United States v. Jonas (1st Cir. January 2022)

The Federal Docket

March 16, 2022

In her capacity as the program manager for New Hampshire’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (“PDMP”), Michelle Ricco Jonas was served with an administrative subpoena by the DEA to produce the prescription drug records of an individual. Ricco Jonas objected by letter, claiming: (1) that the subpoena was unenforceable because the DEA did not have the authority to invade the sovereignty of a state by subpoenaing its officials; and (2) that compliance with the subpoena was barred because individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their prescription drug records such that the Fourth Amendment prohibits their disclosure without a finding of probable cause. DOJ then filed a petition to compel Ricco Jonas’s compliance, and the district court granted it.

Reviewing it for an abuse of discretion only, the First Circuit upheld the lower court’s order. A subpoena does not amount to a lawsuit against the state, so it does not violate its sovereignty. Furthermore, individuals do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their prescription drug records that are kept by agencies like the PDMP because of the closely regulated industry doctrine. Unlike medical records, prescription drug records do not contain information that is as personal or intimate, and so no exception from the doctrine should be made.

Appeal from the District of New Hampshire
Opinion by Howard, joined by Thompson

Click here to read the opinion.

Tom Church - Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of "The Federal Docket" and is a contributor to Mercer Law Review's Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom's reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.

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