Legal Question in Medical Malpractice in California

If a person was a mental health worker and their client disclosed a crime that happened several years ago but they were acquitted would you be able to go to the authorities about it? Some examples being arson, a war crime, or non-violent theft or vandalism. The client confessed out of guilt and for catharsis and don't show any signs of repeating the offense or being an immediate danger to themselves or other people around them. Would one still have to report them or would that break California's Psychotherapist Patient Privilege?

Asked on 9/09/17, 12:34 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Armen Tashjian Law Offices of Armen M. Tashjian

First, any licensed psychotherapist should be familiar with the ethical and professional rules of the profession before one embarks on treating patients.

I'm a lawyer, so I can't tell you what the requirements are for your profession without conducting some research. However, my gut feeling and experience tells me the psychotherapist must not and cannot violate his or her patient's confidence, unless it is to prevent an impeding crime or violence to another person. This is called the Tarasoff exception. If the patient confides about past criminal activity there is no impending danger of violence to another person. Disclosure of such admissions will most definitely undermine the trust between the patient and the therapist.

Second, if the patient spoke about a crime for which he was acquitted, it means the government knew about it and he was tried in the court ofaw. As such, he cannot be charged with the same crime as double jeopardy will most likely attach.

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Answered on 9/09/17, 1:38 pm

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