Magistrate- "Cops can't cuff nurses" E-mail
Written by Mark Nichols   

In a case involving a nurse at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Riviera Beach, Florida, Magistrate James Hopkins said Sheriff Ric Bradshaw and any "officer of reasonable competence" should have realized they can't put a medical professional in handcuffs for refusing to conduct a blood test.

"The Sheriff's Department knew or should have known implementation of the policy would inevitably lead to violations of the Fourth Amendment for false arrest," Hopkins wrote in a 27-page opinion this month.

According to a recent article in the Palm Beach Post the ruling comes from a lawsuit VA nurse Marjorie DePalis-Lachaud filed last spring.

She sued the sheriff’s office two years after she was handcuffed and forced to sit in a patrol car shortly after she explained to Deputy Kenneth Noel that hospital policy prevented her from drawing blood without a doctor's order.

The magistrate rejected arguments by attorneys representing the defendants that the arrest was authorized by a 2008 letter written by then-Palm Beach County State Attorney Barry Krischer.

In that unsigned letter, Krischer warned that "any nurse who refuses to draw blood when requested by a law enforcement officer is in violation of (state law) as actively obstructing a police officer in his lawful investigation."

"The court finds that the legal authority of the letter is uncertain and that a reasonable officer would have viewed it warily," Hopkins wrote. "An officer would be proceeding at his own peril, were he to place all his faith in a one-year-old, unsigned opinion letter that fails to cite any case law, as a foolproof blanket method of handling such situations."

Hopkins' ruling allows DePalis-Lachaud to seek damages from the sheriff's office for violating her constitutional rights.

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