Pacemaker Data Admissible in Ohio Arson Prosecution

A judge in Ohio has ruled that medical information from a pacemaker can be used as evidence in a criminal case over the objection patient. The case involves an arson prosecution where the defendant claims he was in bed when the fire started, but a cardiologist’s review of his pacemaker data makes that claim “highly improbable”.

Ross Compton, 59, is facing charges of aggravated arson and insurance fraud for a fire at his house in September 2016. Compton has a pacemaker that tracks his cardiac readings. Detectives became suspicious of Compton due inconsistencies in his statements, and obtained a search warrant for data from the pacemaker. The information included Compton’s heart rate, pacer demand, and cardiac rhythms before, during and after the fire.

Judge Charles Pater of the Bulter County Court of Common Pleas ruled today that use of the pacemaker information at trial does not violate Compton’s expectations of privacy nor was its seizure unreasonable under the 4th Amendment. The trial is set to begin in December.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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