Viral video shows Salt Lake City nurse Alex Wubbles arrested by Detective Jeff Payne for refusing the officer a blood test
The incident occurred on July 26, after a collision during a police pursuit
Payne wanted a blood test from unconscious William Grey without a warrant
Wubbles tried to explain to Payne that it was against hospital protocol to allow the blood test on an unconscious patient
Payne eventually handcuffed Wubbles and dragged her out of the building
Wubbles was later released after being detained
A viral video of a Salt Lake City nurse being arrested for denying an officer a warrantless blood test on an officer that was in an unconscious state has the Internet infuriated.
On July 26, at roughly 2:00 pm, a Utah Highway Patrol officer was in pursuit of a truck on ST 89/91 near Sardine Canyon. During the pursuit, the truck went into incoming traffic causing a head on collision with a semi-truck.
The collision caused an explosion. Marcos Torres, the driver of the truck, was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the semi-truck, William Gray, exited his vehicle while on fire. Due to the seriousness of his injuries, Gray was taken to University Hospital in Salt Lake City.
The Blood Sample
What happened next is the source of the controversy behind Alex Wubbels’ arrest. Salt Lake Detective and trained Phlebotomist Jeff Payne arrived at the hospital to gather a blood sample from Gray, which is standard procedure when there is a fatality resulting from an accident.
When Payne arrived at the hospital, Gray was unconscious and there was no warrant to gather the blood sample. Gray was also not under arrest, which meant that according to hospital protocol Wubbles was not allowed to give Payne a blood sample.
In order for a blood test to be taken, the hospital requires either a warrant, the patient’s consent, or for the patient to be under arrest at the time of the sample being taken. Wubbles called her supervisor who also told her that she could not give the blood test that Payne was requesting.
At the same time, Lt. James Tracy, the watch commander, was instructing Payne to arrest Wubbles for interfering with an investigation if she did not allow him to get the blood sample.
The two supervisors caused a standoff between the officer and the nurse: Payne believing he was on the right side of the law and Wubbles believing she was protecting her patient and was on the right side of the law. So, who was right?
Breath and blood samples are in fact protected under the 4th Amendment for illegal search and seizure. Technically, once the blood is drawn, it is searched to obtain evidence of one being intoxicated. The US Supreme Court has ruled that a breath sample not be invasive to the point of requiring a warrant. However, a blood sample does in fact require a warrant, in most cases.
Like any other law, there are exceptions for the requirements to take a blood test. Officers can take a blood test if given consent or if there is an “exigent circumstance.” An “exigent circumstance” is defined as “an emergency situation requiring swift action to prevent imminent danger to life or serious damage to property, or to forestall the imminent escape of a suspect, or destruction of evidence.”
Exigent circumstances could have been reason enough for Payne to take a blood sample until you take into account that he was not under arrest, which suggests there was no suspicion he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, in which case a blood test would require a warrant.
The Viral Video
Despite the legality of the blood test, Payne placed Wubbles under arrest and physically dragged her out of the building as she screamed for help. A confused Wubbles argued her innocence, as all she was doing was following hospital protocol and protecting her patient’s 4th Amendment rights.
Since it appears to be very doubtful that a blood test from Gray would not have been legal, Wubbles was technically not violating any laws. It is not illegal to interfere with an illegal search and seizure. Wubbles was later released and faced no charges for the incident; she has not decided as of yet if she will be pursuing retribution. Payne reportedly has been put on paid leave as an internal investigation is conducted.