SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers have a message for police who approach a medical center to obtain blood from a patient: Get a warrant.
More than a message, the mandate would be clarified in a law Rep. Craig Hall, R-West Valley City, unveiled Wednesday. It comes in the wake of the highly controversial arrest of nurse Alex Wubbels at University Hospital in July.
"What happened at the University of Utah that day was unacceptable. A lot of things went wrong. A lot of things could have been done to prevent what happened that day," Hall said.
His legislation makes clear that a blood draw would be permitted only with the person's consent, a warrant or a judicially recognized exception to a warrant.
The Judiciary Interim Committee approved the bill, which the full Legislature will consider in January.
Wubbels' attorney, Karra Porter, said she supports the measure, as do the Salt Lake police, Utah Highway Patrol, American Civil Liberties Union of Utah and Libertas Institute, a libertarian public policy group.
Electronic warrants take about 10 minutes to obtain, so there's really no reason not to get one, Hall said.
"In fact, the officer argued with the nurse much longer than it would have taken to just request and get a warrant," he said. "Just get a warrant. If you have any questions, just get a warrant. Let the judge make the call if the blood draw is appropriate and go from there."
Wubbels' widely publicized arrest happened July 26 when Salt Lake police detective Jeff Payne was sent to University Hospital to collect blood from a man injured in a crash that killed the driver who caused it.
Wubbels, citing policy agreed upon by the hospital and the police department, declined to tell Payne where the patient was or allow him to draw blood.
The detective, with direction from his supervisor that day, Lt. James Tracy, ultimately arrested the screaming nurse after physically pushing her out of the emergency room and holding her against a wall while handcuffing her.
The police department fired Payne and demoted Tracy to the rank of officer. Both men have appeals pending.
Wubbels reached a $500,000 settlement with all parties involved.9 comments on this story
Porter said it's important to keep government accountable. She said Wubbels wanted policy changes after what happened to her, though the bill probably wouldn't have prevented what happened to her but it might help in the future.
"Anything that makes it easier for someone to know the law or be trained on the law, I'm all in favor of," Porter said. "If somebody does not know this law even after they've been spoon fed one statute that lays it all out, then they're going to get sued hard."
Porter said she hopes law enforcement agencies are already training officers about the proposed law.
"If not, they're going to be hearing from us," she said.