When a law enforcement officer arrests an injured or visibly sick person, the officer typically transports the arrestee directly to a hospital for treatment prior to formal booking in a jail or detention facility. Indeed, convicted inmates, pretrial detainees, and arrestees have a constitutional right to receive necessary medical care while in police custody. However, the United States Supreme Court has distinguished a government's constitutional obligation to provide necessary medical care from a duty to pay for such care.' Instead, the Supreme Court has held that a governmental entity must pay for medical treatment of a person in its custody only if the person cannot receive treatment without payment. Thus, while a government entity must ensure an injured person in its custody receives care, the government may lawfully defer the costs of such care if alternate sources of funding are available.' States therefore have substantial discretion in determining precisely how to uphold this constitutional responsibility in practice.
In Georgia, the state legislature enacted section 42-5-2 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.), which allocates how state and local governments will pay for the medical expenses of "inmates."' The statute, however, does not define "inmate," leaving open the question of whether the statute applies to arrestees in law enforcement custody who require medical attention prior to a formal booking in a detention facility.
Hamrick, L. Taylor
"Where Healthcare and Policing Converge: How Georgia Law Promotes Evasion of Financial Responsibility for Indigent Arrestees' and Municipal Inmates' Medical Care,"
Mercer Law Review: Vol. 67:
3, Article 14.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.mercer.edu/jour_mlr/vol67/iss3/14