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Responding to Federal Subpoenas Seeking Medical or Financial Records

March 21, 2024 Uncategorized

Responding to Federal Subpoenas Seeking Medical or Financial Records

Receiving a subpoena for medical or financial records can be intimidating. However, with some basic knowledge about the rules and best practices for responding, you can handle subpoenas confidently and appropriately. This article provides an overview of federal subpoenas, with tips for physicians, healthcare organizations, and other custodians of sensitive records.

What is a Subpoena?

A subpoena is a written order issued by a court directing a person or organization to produce documents, give testimony, or both. There are two main types of subpoenas:

  • A subpoena ad testificandum orders an individual to testify at a proceeding or deposition.
  • A subpoena duces tecum orders a person or organization to produce documents or records.

Subpoenas are used in both criminal and civil cases. They are issued directly by the court overseeing the legal proceedings. Failure to comply with a subpoena may constitute contempt of court, which can result in fines or imprisonment[1].

Receiving a Federal Subpoena

Only federal courts can issue subpoenas for federal criminal investigations or cases. State courts may also issue subpoenas, but they only have jurisdiction within the borders of that state. So if you receive a subpoena from a state court in a different state, you may be able to challenge it on jurisdictional grounds.

Federal subpoenas will clearly indicate they are issued by a U.S. District Court. They contain the name and contact information for the court and case number. If a subpoena does not provide this information, it may not be valid[2].

Responding to a Federal Subpoena Duces Tecum

If you receive a federal subpoena duces tecum requesting medical records, financial documents, or other sensitive information, you cannot simply turn over the records. Federal and state laws impose restrictions on disclosing certain types of confidential information.

Here are important steps to take when responding to subpoenas for protected records:

Christine Twomey
Christine Twomey
2024-03-21
Just had my Divorce case settled 2 months ago after having a horrible experience with another firm. I couldn’t be happier with Claire Banks and Elizabeth Garvey with their outstanding professionalism in doing so with Spodek Law Group. Any time I needed questions answered they were always prompt in doing so with all my uncertainties after 30 yrs of marriage.I feel from the bottom of my heart you will NOT be disappointed with either one. Thanks a million.
Brendan huisman
Brendan huisman
2024-03-18
Alex Zhik contacted me almost immediately when I reached out to Spodek for a consultation and was able to effectively communicate the path forward/consequences of my legal issue. I immediately agreed to hire Alex for his services and did not regret my choice. He was able to cover my case in court (with 1 day notice) and not only was he able to push my case down, he carefully negotiated a dismissal of the charge altogether. I highly recommend Spodek, and more specifically, Alex Zhik for all of your legal issues. Thanks guys!
Guerline Menard
Guerline Menard
2024-03-18
Thanks again Spodek law firm, particularly Esq Claire Banks who stood right there with us up to the finish line. Attached photos taken right outside of the court building and the smile on our faces represented victory, a breath of fresh air and satisfaction. We are very happy that this is over and we can move on with our lives. Thanks Spodek law 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙌🏼❤️
Keisha Parris
Keisha Parris
2024-03-15
Believe every single review here about Alex Z!! From our initial consultation, it was evident that Alex possessed a profound understanding of criminal law and a fierce dedication to his clients rights. Throughout the entirety of my case, Alex exhibited unparalleled professionalism and unwavering commitment. What sets Alex apart is not only his legal expertise but also his genuine compassion for his clients. He took the time to thoroughly explain my case, alleviating any concerns I had along the way. His exact words were “I’m not worried about it”. His unwavering support and guidance were invaluable throughout the entire process. I am immensely grateful for Alex's exceptional legal representation and wholeheartedly recommend his services to anyone in need of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Alex Z is not just a lawyer; he is a beacon of hope for those navigating the complexities of the legal system. If you find yourself in need of a dedicated and competent legal advocate, look no further than Alex Z.
Taïko Beauty
Taïko Beauty
2024-03-15
I don’t know where to start, I can write a novel about this firm, but one thing I will say is that having my best interest was their main priority since the beginning of my case which was back in Winter 2019. Miss Claire Banks, one of the best Attorneys in the firm represented me very well and was very professional, respectful, and truthful. Not once did she leave me in the dark, in fact she presented all options and routes that could possibly be considered for my case and she reinsured me that no matter what I decided to do, her and the team will have my back and that’s exactly what happened. Not only will I be liberated from this case, also, I will enjoy my freedom and continue to be a mother to my first born son and will have no restrictions with accomplishing my goals in life. Now that’s what I call victory!! I thank the Lord, My mother, Claire, and the Spodek team for standing by me and fighting with me. Words can’t describe how grateful I am to have the opportunity to work with this team. I’m very satisfied, very pleased with their performance, their hard work, and their diligence. Thank you team!
Anthony Williams
Anthony Williams
2024-03-12
Hey, how you guys doing? Good afternoon my name is Anthony Williams I just want to give a great shout out to the team of. Spodek law group. It is such a honor to use them and to use their assistance through this whole case from start to finish. They did everything that they said they was gonna do and if it ever comes down to it, if I ever have to use them again, hands-down they will be the first law office at the top of my list, thank you guys so much. It was a pleasure having you guys by my side so if you guys ever need them, do not hesitate to pick up the phone and give them a call.
Loveth Okpedo
Loveth Okpedo
2024-03-12
Very professional, very transparent, over all a great experience
Bee L
Bee L
2024-02-28
Amazing experience with Spodek! Very professional lawyers who take your case seriously. They treated me with respect, were always available, and answered any and all questions. They were able to help me very successfully and removed a huge stress. Highly recommend.
divesh patel
divesh patel
2024-02-24
I can't recommend Alex Zhik and Spodek Law Firm highly enough for their exceptional legal representation and personal mentorship. From the moment I engaged their services in October 2022, Alex took the time to understand my case thoroughly and provided guidance every step of the way. Alex's dedication to my case went above and beyond my expectations. His expertise, attention to detail, and commitment to achieving the best possible outcome were evident throughout the entire process. He took the time to mentor me, ensuring I understood the legal complexities involved to make informed decisions. Alex is the kind of guy you would want to have a beer with and has made a meaningful impact on me. I also want to acknowledge Todd Spodek, the leader of the firm, who played a crucial role in my case. His leadership and support bolstered the efforts of Alex, and his involvement highlighted the firm's commitment to excellence. Thanks to Alex Zhik and Todd Spodek, I achieved the outcome I desired, and I am incredibly grateful for their professionalism, expertise, and genuine care. If you're in need of legal representation, look no further than this outstanding team.
  1. Review the subpoena for validity – Check that it is issued by a federal court and provides all required information.
  2. Determine if the records requested are protected – Medical, financial, education records generally require special handling.
  3. Consult legal counsel – An attorney can advise if the subpoena is valid and enforceable.
  4. Consider notifying the patient/customer – If permitted, inform them of the request and get consent to release records.
  5. Provide required notice to the requesting party – You may need to formally object in writing.
  6. Negotiate the scope of the request – Seek to narrow the request to essential information only.
  7. Get a court order – For some protected records, a subpoena alone is not sufficient authority to release them.
  8. Release records accordingly – Only provide what is expressly permitted by law and the court.

The general rule is to not release any confidential information until you have determined the legal requirements and any objections have been addressed. Consult with an attorney before disclosing protected records in response to a subpoena[3].

Objecting to a Subpoena

The party that issued the subpoena must be notified of any objections you have. Specific procedures apply:

  • Written objection must be made before the compliance deadline.
  • The objection should clearly state which requests are improper and why.
  • File a copy of the objection with the court.
  • Continue negotiating a resolution – most disputes can be resolved without court intervention.
  • If no agreement is reached, a motion to quash the subpoena may be filed.

Quashing a Subpoena

A motion to quash asks the court to vacate or modify the subpoena. Grounds for quashing include:

  • Subpoena requires disclosure of privileged/protected information.
  • Subpoena imposes undue burden or expense.
  • Subpoena was issued in bad faith or to harass.
  • Subpoena requests information not relevant to the case.

The court will review the motion and determine if the subpoena is unreasonable or oppressive. If so, it may be quashed or modified[4].

Subpoenas for Medical Records

Medical records deserve special consideration when responding to subpoenas. Protected health information (PHI) is confidential and regulated under federal and state laws.

HIPAA Privacy Rule

The HIPAA Privacy Rule restricts release of PHI. A subpoena alone is usually insufficient – a court order or patient authorization is also required. The Privacy Rule outlines permitted disclosures for judicial/administrative proceedings[5].

State Medical Privacy Laws

Most states have laws protecting medical records that impose requirements beyond HIPAA. These may include:

  • Patient notice before records are released.
  • Opportunity for patient to object or move to quash.
  • Records can only be used for purposes stated.
  • Special procedures for mental health, HIV, substance abuse records.

When federal and state laws differ, the more stringent law applies. Consult counsel to identify all applicable laws[6].

Substance Abuse Treatment Records

Records related to substance abuse treatment are subject to stringent confidentiality protections under federal and state laws. Key requirements include:

  • The federal Confidentiality of Substance Use Disorder Patient Records rule (42 CFR Part 2) restricts disclosure of substance abuse treatment records. Patient consent is generally required.
  • Exceptions allow disclosure for medical emergencies, research, audits, etc. but detailed requirements must be followed.
  • Part 2 restrictions continue to apply to original substance abuse records even after they are disclosed to third parties.[1]
  • Comparison charts outline differences between Part 2 and HIPAA.[2]
  • State laws may impose additional confidentiality requirements.
  • Violating substance abuse confidentiality can result in criminal penalties.

Proper handling of subpoenas for these records usually requires patient consent or a court order. The court must find “good cause” considering both privacy interests and public interest in disclosure.[3]

Substance abuse disorders affect millions of Americans and are associated with high healthcare utilization.[4] Follow-up care after intensive treatment is crucial to prevent relapse and readmissions.[5] Resources like the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence and SAMHSA Treatment Locator can help connect patients to appropriate programs.[6]

References

  1. [1] https://www.samhsa.gov/about-us/who-we-are/laws-regulations/confidentiality-regulations-faqs
  2. [2] https://www.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/samhsapart2-hipaacomparison2004.pdf
  3. [3] https://www.hca.wa.gov/assets/billers-and-providers/60-0015-sharing-substance-use-disorder-information-guide.pdf
  4. [4] https://www.ncqa.org/hedis/measures/follow-up-after-high-intensity-care-for-substance-use-disorder/
  5. [5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64815/
  6. [6] https://www.ncdhhs.gov/csatgpratoolenglish0-1/download

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