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Trust and the Law II: Psychotherapist and Clergy Privileges

In a recent blog entry, Trust and the Law, trust and its role that it has in our relationship and our lives was examined through a legal lens. As discussed, there are several relationships in our lives where we share with another person information that we would like to protect or would like to keep out of the public sphere. Many times these relationships are between our loved ones, but trust may also occur outside the home such as in the work sphere, the medical profession, and in our religious affiliations.

Trust and the Federal and State Courts

The federal government has defined a specific number of relationships where communications are protected, as long as they stay between the parties to the communications. States also have defined which types of relationships (and the communications involved) are protected in a criminal and civil proceeding. In the last blog entry, the privileges between spouses and the privileges between lawyer and client were evaluated. In Florida, however, there are more privileges available to a defendant than just his relationship with his spouse or attorney.

Florida’s Privileges

In Florida, the Rules of Evidence outlines the specific privileges whereby one may not testify against you or about a matter that was discussed between you and the person. Florida protects the following privileges (subject to specific limitations):

  • Lawyer/Fiduciary Lawyer-Client Privilege;
  • Husband-Wife Privilege;
  • Psychotherapist-Patient Privilege;
  • Clergy Communications Privilege;
  • Journalist Privilege;
  • Sexual Assault Counselor/Domestic Violence Advocate – Victim Privilege;
  • Accountant-Client Privilege; and
  • Trade Secrets Privilege.

The Psychotherapist-Patient Privilege and Clergy Communications Privilege will be discussed below.

Psychotherapist- Patient Privilege

A psychotherapist is defined as a person who is authorized to practice medicine and who is treating the patient for a mental or emotional condition which may include drug addiction and alcoholism.

The communication between patient and psychotherapist is considered confidential and privileged if the information is not intended to be transmitted to a third person. Disclosure to a third party is not permitted unless the third party is necessary to:

  • further the interests of the patient;
  • pass along the information for medical purposes; or
  • participate in the diagnosis and treatment and who is there under the guidance of the psychotherapist.

Privilege does not apply when:

  • The patient has waived his right to privilege;
  • When communications are necessary to force hospitalization of a patient due to his mental illness;
  • When the communications were required as a result of court-ordered mental and emotional examination of the patient; or
  • When the communications are the subject of a proceeding such as when a patient acted in a specific way as a result of his diagnosis and/or treatment.

Communications with the Clergy

A member of the clergy is defined as someone who is either a priest, rabbi, minister or some practitioner of any denomination or religious affiliation (or if the defendant believed that the person who he consulted with was a member of the clergy).

The communications between the clergy member and the individual will be considered confidential and privileged where the individual consulted privately with the clergy member to receive spiritual guidance and advice and the advice given by the clergy member must be the type that is normally given within the denomination.

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale

Understanding when our conversations are privileged and confidential may be extremely important when determining the type of information to disclose to another person. Trust is an important part of the equation when looking for an experienced criminal defense attorney to help advocate on your behalf. Kevin J. Kulik understands the importance of trust and advocates faithfully on his clients’ behalves. Contact Kevin J. Kulik today in Fort Lauderdale for a free and confidential consultation of your case.

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