Cal.6th: There is a federal constitutional right of privacy in medical and psychiatric records


There is a Griswold constitutional right of privacy in medical and psychiatric records which can only be disclosed when there is a compelling state interest, which the court finds here in a SVP [Sexually Violent Predator] case. People v. Gonzales, 2011 Cal. App. LEXIS 91 (6th Dist. January 27, 2011)


From the opinion’s Statement of the Case:

In 2007, the Santa Clara County District Attorney filed a petition to commit defendant Ramiro Gonzales as a sexually violent predator (SVP) under the SVP Act. (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 6600 et seq.) A jury found the defendant qualified as an SVP, and the court ordered defendant committed to the custody of the Department of Mental Health (DMH) for an indeterminate term.

On appeal from the commitment order, defendant claims the trial court erred in releasing psychological records to the prosecution and admitting the testimony of a former therapist.  He claims there is insufficient evidence that his circumstances had materially changed since a previous determination that he did not qualify as an SVP.  He claims the court erred in refusing to instruct the jury that mental retardation could not be considered a mental disorder in determining whether he qualified as an SVP.  He claims the indeterminate commitment violates his constitutional rights to equal protection and due process and also the constitutional protections against ex post facto legislation and double jeopardy.  Finally, he claims the SVP law, as amended, violates his First Amendment rights.

We conclude that the court committed reversible error in releasing privileged psychotherapeutic records and admitting testimony concerning privileged information. Accordingly, we reverse the commitment order.

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