Bill inspired by arrest of Utah nurse Alex Wubbels passes Utah House, heads to Senate

Posted at 9:59 PM, Jan 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-29 10:19:30-05

SALT LAKE CITY – The arrest of University of Utah Nurse Alex Wubbels made national headlines, and the issue is now the subject of a bill advancing on Utah’s Capitol Hill.

Under a bill proposed by Rep. Craig Hall, R-West Valley City, police officers who want to draw blood from someone would require approval from a judge.

Wubbels was handcuffed by Salt Lake City Police Det. Jeff Payne last year when she refused to allow him to take blood from an unconscious patient without a warrant.

Footage of the arrest captured by surveillance and body cameras went viral online, and the footage prompted protests in Utah and calls for Payne to be fired.

“I don’t think anyone here believes what happened that day was acceptable,” Rep. Hall said on the House Floor. “Many things went wrong that day and I believe this bill would have helped prevent what happened.”

Payne was fired, and Wubbels reached a settlement with the Salt Lake City Police Department and the University of Utah that included $500,000.

Now she is pushing for more discussion of patient rights, and safety for patient advocates.

“The very first thing that Alex wanted when she came to see me was she wanted changes,” said Karra Porter, Wubbels’ attorney. “She wanted policy changes and she wanted any legal changes that would help.”

The bill wouldn’t just apply to patients in hospitals but to anyone police may want to draw blood from, including drivers suspected of DUI.

“It takes an average of 10 minutes to get a warrant, so again there really should be no reason not to get that warrant,” Hall said.

Rep. Hall hopes the bill will draw clear lines for future police investigations.

“A blood draw is only allowed if, one, an individual gives oral or written consent, or the police officer obtains a warrant, or there's a judicially recognized exception to the warrant,” Hall said.

The Utah House voted unanimously to approve the bill this week, and it now advances to the State Senate for consideration.