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CA Patient Jailed for Not Taking His Meds

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on May 18, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Can you be arrested for not taking medication?

If you answered in the negative, you'd be wrong. California health officials have petitioned for the arrest and prosecution of Armando Rodriguez, a Stockton drug user who has an active case of pulmonary tuberculosis. After refusing to take his medication on multiple occasions, he was arrested.

He's since been charged with refusing to comply with a tuberculosis order.

Though many people live with tuberculosis, the Associated Press reports that the disease becomes active when a person's immune system is compromised. Drug users like Armando Rodriguez are particularly susceptible.

Health officials across the country are given special powers to deal with diseases that pose a public health risk. Active cases of tuberculosis are highly contagious and can be spread through the coughing up of blood and phlegm into the air.

In California, the local health commissioner can order a tuberculosis patient to appear at designated times to take his meds. He or she can also require patients to be home at certain times to do the same, according to the Associated Press. Armando Rodriguez apparently failed to do both of these.

Officials felt arrest was their best option. Though patients are offered transportation and other services to help them get healthy, prosecutor Stephen Taylor told the AP that "criminal cases ... generally involve drug users who are harder to treat and manage." These individuals simply won't cooperate with an out-patient program.

This is how they handle things in California, but other states may only require court-ordered detention. In Virginia, example, patients aren't exactly arrested for not taking medication. Instead, a judge can order them to be detained in a medical facility if there is proof they continue to engage in at-risk behavior. New York has similar laws.

So while Armando Rodriguez was arrested for not taking medication, his situation is not exactly unique. And arguably, his arrest was necessary to preserve the public's health.

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