Nurse’s Arrest Showcases Need to Assert Your Legal Rights
Not long ago, in Salt Lake City, a nurse in the burn unit of the University of Utah Hospital was assaulted and arrested by city police when she refused to permit officers to break the law and draw blood from a patient that was not a suspect, not under arrest, when they didn’t have a warrant, and the patient was unconscious and therefore unable to grant consent.
This travesty was compounded by the fact that the patient in question was an accidental victim of a crime, not even a suspect! He was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time when someone who actually was a criminal suspect was fleeing the police and crashed into the victim’s truck.
The police told the nurse they wanted the blood draw to demonstrate that the patient had not been under the influence of any illicit substance and prove he was innocent of any crime.
The nurse did the right thing, as she had been trained to do. She calmly asked if they had a warrant. They said no. Not even an electronic warrant, she asked? The answer was still no. She asked whether the patient was under arrest. Again, the answer was no.
So, she explained to the police officers that because there was no warrant, and that the patient wasn’t under arrest, and because he was unconscious and therefore unable to grant consent, they were not permitted to draw his blood. She even showed them the written agreement stating this that the police department had entered into with the hospital.
They didn’t care. What the police wanted was to ignore constitutional law and violate an innocent man’s rights, and they weren’t going to let a nurse who was patiently explaining to them the hospital policy that the police department had previously formally agreed to abide by that would prevent them from “doing their job” get in their way.
When she got her supervisor on the phone and put him on speakerphone, the supervisor confirmed what she had said and told them they would be in trouble for threatening a nurse for doing what was right.
That’s when things got out of hand. Detective Payne, a trained police phlebotomist, tried to slap the phone out of her hand and then grabbed her, whirled her around, and wrestled her into handcuffs, telling her she was under arrest, while she protested, in panic.
Fortunately, the entire encounter, from the nurse’s calm, professional handling of the officers’ illegal demand to the astonishing, violent explosion and manhandling by Detective Jeff Payne was captured on a police officer’s body camera.
Not everyone in that situation might be so lucky.
It can be very difficult to stand up to a police officer, particularly an irate one, even when you know you have the law on your side, when your rights, or the rights of someone you are protecting, are being violated.
No police officer is entitled to draw blood from someone without a warrant (which requires probable cause) or without their consent.
More important, this is true not just when you are innocent but if you are potentially guilty of a possible offense and they haven’t established sufficient cause to arrest you. No matter what, you still have rights. And the police must respect those rights.
But, as anyone who watches the news knows well, that doesn’t always happen.
If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, do not be afraid to assert your rights, no matter how belligerent a frustrated law enforcement official might become. Refuse to give consent. Say it clearly: “I refuse to consent to this.” And at your first available opportunity, call a criminal defense attorney with experience in these matters. Do not give details over the phone. (Police are listening!) Just explain that you need them to come to you as soon as possible. And say nothing else.
If you do not know a criminal defense attorney, call us. We will advise you, and if you want us to represent you, we will be there, asap. We are available 24/7, because situations like this one happen all the time.