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34 U.S. Code § 12312 - Confidentiality of communications between sexual assault or domestic violence victims and their counselors

(a) Study and development of model legislationThe Attorney General shall—
study and evaluate the manner in which the States have taken measures to protect the confidentiality of communications between sexual assault or domestic violence victims and their therapists or trained counselors;
(2) develop model legislation that will provide the maximum protection possible for the confidentiality of such communications, within any applicable constitutional limits, taking into account the following factors:
the danger that counseling programs for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence will be unable to achieve their goal of helping victims recover from the trauma associated with these crimes if there is no assurance that the records of the counseling sessions will be kept confidential;
consideration of the appropriateness of an absolute privilege for communications between victims of sexual assault or domestic violence and their therapists or trained counselors, in light of the likelihood that such an absolute privilege will provide the maximum guarantee of confidentiality but also in light of the possibility that such an absolute privilege may be held to violate the rights of criminal defendants under the Federal or State constitutions by denying them the opportunity to obtain exculpatory evidence and present it at trial; and
consideration of what limitations on the disclosure of confidential communications between victims of these crimes and their counselors, short of an absolute privilege, are most likely to ensure that the counseling programs will not be undermined, and specifically whether no such disclosure should be allowed unless, at a minimum, there has been a particularized showing by a criminal defendant of a compelling need for records of such communications, and adequate procedural safeguards are in place to prevent unnecessary or damaging disclosures; and
prepare and disseminate to State authorities the findings made and model legislation developed as a result of the study and evaluation.
(b) Report and recommendationsNot later than the date that is 1 year after September 13, 1994, the Attorney General shall report to the Congress
the findings of the study and the model legislation required by this section; and
recommendations based on the findings on the need for and appropriateness of further action by the Federal Government.
(c) Review of Federal evidentiary rules

The Judicial Conference of the United States shall evaluate and report to Congress its views on whether the Federal Rules of Evidence should be amended, and if so, how they should be amended, to guarantee that the confidentiality of communications between sexual assault victims and their therapists or trained counselors will be adequately protected in Federal court proceedings.

Editorial Notes
References in Text

The Federal Rules of Evidence, referred to in subsec. (c), are set out in the Appendix to Title 28, Judiciary and Judicial Procedure.


Section was formerly classified to section 13942 of Title 42, The Public Health and Welfare, prior to editorial reclassification and renumbering as this section.