Alex Wubbels, the Salt Lake City nurse who was arrested on video after she refused to let a cop draw blood from an unconscious patient without consent or a warrant, has been widely praised for taking a stand against unconstitutional invasions of privacy. Her admirers do not include Gregg Re, a lawyer who argues in a recent Daily Caller piece, provocatively headlined "Arrested Utah Nurse Had It Coming," that "Wubbels was likely legally wrong under federal law." But Re cannot back up that contrarian claim without resorting to hypotheticals that do not bear any resemblance to this case.
Suppose "your neighbor bursts through your front door with a pile of drugs in his hands," Re says. The neighbor is trailed by cops who demand entry as he flushes the drugs down your toilet. If you refuse to let the cops in, Re says, they would be justified in entering anyway and might even arrest you if you tried to interfere. The point, he says, is that "police simply do not need a warrant if exigent circumstances justify an urgent search and seizure of evidence."
That scenario is a red herring, because Re never explains how Wubbels resembles the drug dealer's uncooperative neighbor. In particular, he fails to describe the exigent circumstances that supposedly justified Det. Jeff Payne's demand for her patient's blood, relying unstead on inapplicable generalities. "The imminent loss of blood evidence, which would be useful in a drunk-driving case, qualifies as a potentially exigent circumstance," Re writes. Potentially, yes. Necessarily, no.
Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a nationally syndicated columnist. Gregg Re is a twit.