An Overview of Specific Privileges in California Criminal Law
In the realm of criminal law, the protection of privileged communications is essential to uphold the rights of the accused and the principles of justice. California Evidence Code contains several provisions that establish and regulate specific privileges designed to protect confidential communications in the context of criminal cases.
Physician-Patient Privilege (Evidence Code Sections 990-1007)
Who Holds the Privilege: The patient holds this privilege, allowing them to prevent their physician from disclosing confidential medical information.
Exceptions: The physician-patient privilege can be waived when the patient's medical condition is placed at issue in a criminal case or when disclosure is necessary to prevent a threat to public safety.
Examples: In a robbery criminal trial, a defendant may choose to waive the privilege and allow the prosecution access to their medical records if it helps establish an alibi, such as the defendant being at a doctor’s appointment on the date and time of the robbery.Psychotherapist-Patient Privilege (Evidence Code Sections 1010-1027)
Who Holds the Privilege: The patient holds this privilege, protecting their confidential communications with a psychotherapist.
Exceptions: This privilege can be waived if the patient's mental or emotional condition is placed in contention in the criminal case, or if disclosure is necessary to prevent harm to the patient or others.
Examples: In a murder criminal trial, a defendant may waive the psychotherapist-patient privilege to allow the introduction of their therapy records as evidence in a criminal trial to support an insanity defense or to help facilitate a mental health diversion.Clergy-Penitent Privilege (Evidence Code Sections 1030-1034)
Who Holds the Privilege: The penitent holds this privilege, ensuring that their confidential communications with a member of the clergy are protected.
Exceptions: This privilege may be waived when the penitent voluntarily allows disclosure or when a court determines that disclosure is essential to prevent a crime that could result in death or substantial bodily harm.
Examples: A defendant may assert the clergy-penitent privilege to protect confidential discussions with a priest related to their potential involvement in a criminal act. However, that privilege may be waived if the defendant tells the clergyman that he will kidnap a child. In that case, the clergyman would be able to testify at trial about the penitent’s statements.Sexual Assault Counselor-Victim Privilege (Evidence Code Sections 1035-1036.2)
Who Holds the Privilege: The victim of sexual assault holds this privilege, safeguarding their confidential communications with a counselor.
Exceptions: This privilege is rarely subject to exceptions, and disclosure is generally not permitted.
Examples: A sexual assault survivor may assert this privilege to protect discussions with a counselor about the incident during a criminal trial.Domestic Violence Counselor-Victim Privilege (Evidence Code Sections 1037-1037.8)
Who Holds the Privilege: The victim of domestic violence holds this privilege, protecting their confidential communications with a counselor.
Exceptions: Similar to the sexual assault counselor-victim privilege, this privilege is well-protected, with limited exceptions.
Examples: A victim of domestic violence may assert this privilege to protect confidential conversations with a counselor about their abusive relationship during a criminal trial.Human Trafficking Caseworker-Victim Privilege (Evidence Code Sections 1038-1038.3)
Who Holds the Privilege: The victim of human trafficking holds this privilege, ensuring that their confidential communications with a caseworker are protected.
Exceptions: This privilege is robustly protected, with limited exceptions.
Examples: A victim of human trafficking may assert this privilege to protect their communications with a caseworker, even if they are implicated in criminal activity related to their trafficking situation.
In California, the protection of privileged communications is crucial for safeguarding the rights of individuals involved in criminal cases. These specific privileges provide a shield for confidential communications in various sensitive contexts.
If you are facing charges for a crime, it is critical that you hire an attorney that understands how to navigate the complexities of various privileges. As a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience, Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Michael Kraut has extensive experience with the Evidence Code regarding privileges.
For more information about the criminal justice process, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.