PA: Conflict of laws: PA law applies as site of crime even though blood draw in NY

Defendant had a DUI accident in Pennsylvania and his blood was drawn at an ER in New York for medical purposes. New York law would exclude the evidence, but Pennsylvania law would not because the doctor-patient privilege doesn’t apply in criminal cases in Pennsylvania. Applying conflict of laws principles, Pennsylvania law should apply in Pennsylvania. Commonwealth v. Grays, 2017 PA Super 245, 2017 Pa. Super. LEXIS 572 (July 25, 2017):

Therefore, Appellant is correct that there is a conflict between the sister states’ general substantive rules of law regarding the physician-patient privilege and its application to criminal cases. Accordingly, we turn to an analysis of the states’ policies and interests underlying the issue so that we may determine which law should be applied. See Sanchez, supra. “This approach gives the state having the most interest in the question paramount control over the legal issues arising from a particular factual context, thereby allowing the forum to apply the policy of the jurisdiction most intimately concerned with the outcome.” Commonwealth v. Housman, 604 Pa. 596, 630, 986 A.2d 822, 842 (2009) (quotation marks and quotation omitted).

Here, in weighing the competing policies and interests, we find no error of law in the trial court’s conclusion that Pennsylvania is the jurisdiction having the greater interest in the propriety of the Commonwealth using Appellant’s Arnot Ogden medical records, and particularly his pre-arrest BAC. Thus, the trial court properly held that Pennsylvania law should apply.

In this regard, we recognize the purpose of N.Y. CPLR 4504 and the New York legislative intent in enacting the statutory physician-patient privilege “is to protect those who are required to consult with physician[s] from the disclosure of secrets imparted to physician[s], to protect the relationship of patient and physician[,] and to prevent physicians from disclosing information which might result in humiliation, embarrassment, or disgrace to patients.” People v. Abdul Karim Al-Kanani, 33 N.Y.2d 260, [264], 351 N.Y.S.2d 969, 307 N.E.2d 43 (1973) (quotation marks, quotations, and citations omitted). We agree with the trial court that this is certainly “an important concern.” See Trial Court Opinion, filed 11/2/16, at 8. However, the aim of the New York statute is not to protect those who have committed a crime or to avoid the imposition of criminal penalties.

Pennsylvania has an interest in protecting its citizens from intoxicated drivers and to prosecute such drivers, particularly where such driving causes fatalities. In the case sub judice, the motor vehicle collision and deaths occurred entirely in Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania State Police investigated the collision, and the victims of the collision were residents of Pennsylvania. Further, the sole reason Appellant’s blood was drawn at a New York hospital is because the accident occurred in a remote area of Pennsylvania, and due to Appellant’s urgent need for treatment, he was taken to the nearest hospital, which was over the border in New York.

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