People often seek out the help of a psychiatrist or a therapist to help them work through emotional trauma, psychological disorders, or other mental health problems. One of the most critical aspects of the therapist’s relationship with the client is confidentiality. Therapists and psychiatrists must keep any information a client tells them in strict confidence. This allows the client to be more open and honest with their therapist, leading to more effective mental health treatment. This confidentiality becomes a problem when the police become involved with a client. If a client is suspected of being involved in a crime or some other criminal activity, the police may try to go to the client’s therapist for answers.
While therapists are forbidden from divulging client information to third parties, they may be required to speak to police under certain circumstances or when a court order is provided. Read on to learn more about when therapists and psychiatrists can speak to law enforcement officials about their clients. If the police are trying to speak with your therapists, contact our experienced Atlantic City criminal defense attorney at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych.
When Can Therapists Talk to The Police About Patients in NJ
According to New Jersey law, therapists and similarly licensed psychiatrists and other counselors are bound by a therapist-client privilege. Therapists tend to discuss deeply personal things with their clients, so this confidentiality ensures the client’s privacy and allows for a more open and honest relationship with their therapist. Under Title 45 of the New Jersey Revised Statutes, any communications with a therapist are privileged and must not be divulged to any third parties.
Most of the time, therapists will keep their clients’ information private and secure. However, under certain circumstances, therapists may be able to break their duty of confidentiality. In situations where a client or client has indicated they plan to commit a violent crime, a therapist may report that information to the police. A therapist may also break confidentiality when a client is incapacitated and is being committed to a hospital or institution or when a client’s competence is in question, such as in a criminal trial. Most of this information will be disclosed to the client, and they will be asked to give permission for any other disclosures, such as to a parent or parole officer.
Are Therapists Allowed to Talk to Police About Their Clients in NJ?
The answer to this question is both yes and no. Generally, a therapist will not talk to the police about a client. Therapists are bound by a duty of confidentiality to their clients and may not divulge their client’s personal information to anyone and cannot even admit to being someone’s therapist without their permission. However, there may be times when police intervention is necessary for the client’s safety or another person’s safety. There may be other situations in which the therapist is legally compelled to talk about their client to the police or in court.
If a client told their therapist that they plan to commit a violent crime, a therapist might report that information to the police. Similarly, a therapist is required by law to report to the police if they know their client has physically or sexually abused or endangered a child in Atlantic City or the surrounding area in New Jersey. While a therapist is bound by a duty of confidentiality to their client, this duty cannot come at the cost of others. When other people are getting hurt, and the client is responsible, confidentiality goes out the window.
Additionally, if a client is on trial for a crime and their mental capacity to stand trial is called into question, a therapist will analyze the client and report their findings to the court. This is technically a breach of confidentiality, but it is necessary to determine if the client is capable of standing trial.
What Are Therapists Allowed to Tell the Police in NJ?
What therapists are allowed to tell the police will vary depending upon the situation. Generally, a therapist may disclose information about their client to the police when they believe the patient poses a threat of immediate harm. For example, if a client tells his therapist his will commit a violent crime, a therapist may inform the police that their patient poses a danger of immediate harm. A therapist could also tell the police about communications that were not direct confessions but lead the therapist to suspect the client will commit a violent act in the immediate future.
In New Jersey, therapists have a duty to warn. This means that if their client has not yet committed a violent crime against a person, but has indicated they plan to, the therapist may contact the police or the potential victim and warn them of the impending danger. This only includes crimes against people, not property. Exactly what the therapist discloses to the police in this situation will depend on the harm intended by the client.
Generally, your therapist will likely disclose only the information relevant to the situation necessary to avoid harm. If the harm has already occurred, your therapist is not required to disclose any information to the police. Doing so would be an unlawful disclosure. Disclosures of too much information that is not relevant may also be an unlawful disclosure.
Can Prosecutors Use Evidence Unlawfully Obtained from Your Therapist in NJ?
If your therapist believes you pose an immediate danger to other people, or you have abused a child, your therapist may willingly go to the police with information about you. It can be crucial to have a Northfield criminal defense lawyer by your side if this happens. The police may also reach out to your therapist with a warrant. In either circumstance, your personal information may be disclosed to the police by your therapist. If the disclosure is not lawful, you may have grounds to suppress incriminating information. The police can only use lawfully obtained evidence against you at trial. Your therapist is permitted to speak to the police about you, but only under very limited circumstances. If you believe your therapist overstepped their boundaries by talking to the police, you may be able to prevent that information from being used against you at trial. You should contact our legal team to determine what kind of case you have.
Contact Our Experienced New Jersey Defense Lawyer for a Free Legal Consultation
Your therapist is generally forbidden from disclosing your personal, private communications to anyone, including law enforcement. However, under certain circumstances, your therapist may talk about you with the police. If you suspect your therapist has spoken to the police about you, or they have already spoken to the police about you, contact our experienced New Jersey criminal defense lawyer. Contact the Law Offices of John J. Zarych. Call (609) 616-4956 to schedule a free legal consultation.