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Trust and the Law III: Journalist Privilege and Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Advocate

There have been a couple recent blog entries – Trust and the Law and Trust and the Law II, which have outlined the role that trust within our relationships with other people is protected by the law. The purpose is to protect specific relationships from the scrutiny of the court system because our society wants to promote open communication and trust between specific sets of people.

As discussed in the previous blogs, Florida, like the federal system, protects certain communications between parties to promote open and honest communication in the hopes of cultivating strong relationships and ties in the community.

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 Journalist Privilege and the Sexual Assault Counselor/Domestic Violence Advocate- Victim Privilege will be discussed below:

The Journalist Privilege

In our culture, it is vital that our First Amendment rights are protected. Protecting this right includes permitting journalists to report truthfully and accurately about the current events going on, even if it is unfavorable to the government in particular. Part of this protection goes to how a journalist gathers information involving sensitive matters. Sometimes a journalist may only be able to receive information if they agree to keep the source confidential; otherwise, valuable information could be lost as a result.

To be able to invoke the privilege, a journalist must be a person who actively is involved in the collection, photographing, recording, writing, or otherwise involved in the process of publishing news as part of a livelihood or other gain. A source is generally protected if the information or observation that they provided was obtained during the journalist’s normal scope of employment, and the information does not relate to a commission of a crime.

Privilege may be overcome if there has been a showing that:

  • the information relates to unresolved issues during a proceeding;
  • there is no other alternative source that could provide the same information; and
  • there is a compelling interest that requires disclosure of this information.

Sexual Assault Counselor/Domestic Violence Advocate- Victim Privilege

Sexual assault and domestic violence is widespread in the United States. Sometimes survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence may seek advice from counselors or advocates on what to do after a sexual assault or domestic violent situation has arisen. The information that they provide to counselors and advocates is of an extremely sensitive nature and many times they do not want to pursue charges against their assaulter or abuser. However, the state may decide to bring charges and it is within the survivor’s rights to determine that the communication provided to his/her counselor should remain between them.

To qualify, a sexual assault counselor/domestic violence advocate must work at a public or private agency whose purpose is to offer assistance to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence and must have completed at least 30 hours of training relating to sexual assault or domestic violence (and other issues surrounding these themes.)

The communication between a victim and his/her counselor or advocate is privileged if it was not intended to be disclosed to third parties not related with the agency, or if it was to the victim’s guardian, personal representative or attorney.

Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale

Privilege between a client and his/her attorney is one of the most important relationships that society wants to protect. An experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik understands the sanctity of that relationship and takes it seriously. Contact the Law Offices of Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation of your case.

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