North Carolina Sheriffs Demand Access To State Records on Citizen Prescriptions

Sheriffs in North Carolina are demanding access to state computer records identifying anyone in the state with prescriptions for powerful painkillers and other controlled substances. The obvious intrusion into the privacy of citizens is being justified as potentially allowing police to make more drug arrests.

The dragnet would pull in thirty percent of the citizens who have at least one prescription for a controlled substance. That is nearly 2.5 million people.

Such a proposal should result in public outcry and recrimination. However, the legislature is considering the request.

It is astonishing that we have come to a point where such a demand is considered plausible. We are quickly turning into a fishbowl society where every aspect of our lives remain under government surveillance and monitoring. This is a change in our country, which is based, as stated by Louis Brandeis, “the right to be left alone.” There are any number of things that can make it easier for the government including total access to financial and medical records as well as discretionary searches and seizures. Privacy often loses when “balanced” against claims of crime fighting. As citizens become more accustomed to government intrusion, it makes further intrusions possible. The Katz test premises the right of the government to engage in warrantless surveillance on the “reasonable expectation of privacy of citizens.” As those expectations fall, the power of the government increases — creating a downward spiral.

Privacy remains an abstraction that fades away in the presence of “tough on crime” rhetoric. What concerns me is that an association of sheriffs would have so little appreciation for core privacy values and traditions. As Brandeis observed in his dissenting opinion in Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438 (1928):

Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.

Source: News Observer

Jonathan Turley

71 thoughts on “North Carolina Sheriffs Demand Access To State Records on Citizen Prescriptions”

  1. In a related update, legislators continue to press for broad access to medical records by police. From Georgia:

    “We don’t have a searchable database that sheriffs and law enforcement can go in and see who has been buying meth products and who has been buying an excessive amount of pills,” Weldon said at the Dalton-Whitfield Chamber of Commerce’s Good Morning Dalton breakfast.

    “We’ve got a problem going up and down I-75, and our kids are being exposed to a lot of pharmaceutical drugs. We need to limit that,” Weldon said.

    He said the database would include the names of those who buy over-the-counter medications that can be used to make methamphetamine as well as those who buy prescription drugs.

    Weldon said law enforcement officials will not need a warrant to search the database but they will not have “unfettered” access to medical records.

  2. OMG!! I JUST saw a “blurp” on CNN (funny, because I CANNOT stand the talking heads) but there it was… Sheriffs in North Carolina want… WTF?? Where do you even start with this sh!7?? With this type of opression I won’t need to wipe myself. Oh wait, yes I will and THEN pay a penalty for using one square too many (or is it one less?) Where does this end? I really could answer that but it would require waaayyy too many people to pull their heads out and wake up.

  3. Byron The “Chicago Tribune” was an extremely republican newspaper in 1934. My mother read “Chicago Daily News” when I was a child. We just avoided the Bush depression.

  4. So are planned economies even on limited scales the true enemy or is it corruption by special interests that is truly bringing down the house, Byron?

    a href=””>Goldman Sachs: Bullies on the Block

    You keep speaking of an “enemy” (planned economies) that doesn’t exist in this country.

    I’m speaking of a very real enemy that does exist – special interest corruption (and as specifically related to market manipulations by private for profit interests).

    Personally, I prefer to address the demonstrable thief in the house rather than the fictitious boogey man under the bed.

  5. Byron,

    “could it be that the income increase is because they have/had a bunch of money invested in the stock market and that income is not from labor but from increase in stock prices and dividends?”

    Wishful thinking. CEO compensation totaled $598 million at the 50 companies that laid off the most workers.

    “But are they parasites? They provided, by virtue of their wealth, funds for many companies to increase their wealth by virtue of capital improvements. Thus increasing dividends and stock prices so the rest of us could also enjoy larger returns.”

    More wishful thinking. Although some stocks are indeed soaring it is irrelevant as according to research done at USC 90% of the populace owns 18.8% of the outstanding stock while the top 1% owns 38.3% of outstanding stock. The news is also replete with examples of how capitol improvements that are being made are not being used to create jobs and address the shrinking buying capacity of consumers, but rather to increase automation and thereby fuel job losses.

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