§ 1.494 - Procedures and criteria for orders authorizing disclosure and use of records to criminally investigate or prosecute patients.
(a) Application. An order authorizing the disclosure or use of patient records covered by §§ 1.460 through 1.499 of this part to criminally investigate or prosecute a patient may be applied for by VA or by any person conducting investigative or prosecutorial activities with respect to the enforcement of criminal laws. The application may be filed separately, as part of an application for a subpoena or other compulsory process, or in a pending criminal action. An application must use a fictitious name such as John Doe, to refer to any patient and may not contain or otherwise disclose patient identifying information unless the court has ordered the record of the proceeding sealed from public scrutiny.
(b) Notice and hearing. Unless an order under § 1.495 of this part is sought with an order under this section, VA must be given:
(1) Adequate notice (in a manner which will not disclose patient identifying information to third parties) of an application by a person performing a law enforcement function;
(2) An opportunity to appear and be heard for the limited purpose of providing evidence on the statutory and regulatory criteria for the issuance of the court order; and
(3) An opportunity to be represented by counsel.
(c) Review of evidence: Conduct of hearings. Any oral argument, review of evidence, or hearing on the application shall be held in the judge's chambers or in some other manner which ensures that patient identifying information is not disclosed to anyone other than a party to the proceedings, the patient, or VA. The proceeding may include an examination by the judge of the patient records referred to in the application.
(d) Criteria. A court may authorize the disclosure and use of patient records for the purpose of conducting a criminal investigation or prosecution of a patient only if the court finds that all of the following criteria are met:
(1) The crime involved is extremely serious, such as one which causes or directly threatens loss of life or serious bodily injury including, but not limited to, homicide, rape, kidnapping, armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, and child abuse and neglect.
(2) There is a reasonable likelihood that the records will disclose information of substantial value in the investigation or prosecution.
(3) Other ways of obtaining the information are not available or would not be effective.
(4) The potential injury to the patient, to the physician-patient relationship and to the ability of VA to provide services to other patients is outweighed by the public interest and the need for the disclosure.
(5) If the applicant is a person performing a law enforcement function, VA has been represented by counsel independent of the applicant.
(e) Content of order. Any order authorizing a disclosure or use of patient records under this section must:
(1) Limit disclosure and use to those parts of the patient's record which are essential to fulfill the objective of the order;
(2) Limit disclosure to those law enforcement and prosecutorial officials who are responsible for, or are conducting, the investigation or prosecution, and limit their use of the records to investigation and prosecution of extremely serious crime or suspected crime specified in the applications; and
(3) Include such other measures as are necessary to limit disclosure and use to the fulfillment on only that public interest and need found by the court.