General Question

luigirovatti's avatar

In the USA, if a psychologist's been told about a crime the patient committed, is (s)he obligated to report it to the police?

Asked by luigirovatti (2325points) September 12th, 2019

And, if not, does (s)he have to, if the patient expresses explicitly the intention of doing it again?

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14 Answers

jca2's avatar

I don’t think so. I am going to google it later.

A friend ran a group in a psychiatric home and she told me about someone who admitted he kidnapped a baby. She had a tough time with it but she said she could not report it. She is an RN.

zenvelo's avatar

Depends on the crime. In California though, psychologists and other therapists are “mandated reporters”; a therapist that learns of a crime that harmed another or will harm another is mandated to report it to the authorities.

Psychotherapists will inform a client of that at the initial appointment. It is part of the intake.

jca2's avatar

Mandated reporters refers to children. All teachers, school staff, nurses, doctors, day care staff, therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists are mandated reporters, as well as Child Welfare staff (CPS, Foster Care workers, etc.). If a child reveals that he’s been molested, hit, mother was drunk, daddy hit mommy in front of the child, etc. the mandated reporter has no choice but report it to CPS. It may not be a crime that was committed, but it’s either child abuse or child neglect. Not all things that a mandated reporter deals with are crimes.

jca2's avatar

I googled and this is what I got from one government website:

jca2's avatar

Here is a New York State document on mandated reporters, who is a mandated reporter and what they must report:

LadyMarissa's avatar

This is what I’ve found so far . Part way down the page is a listing by state of the individual state’s laws. Seems like in my state, it’s up to the discretion of the doctor & whether or not it’s an ongoing threat. IF I read it right, they don’t have to provide past indiscretions; however, IF there is reason to believe that there is an ongoing threat, they must at a minimum warn the person who might be in danger or report to authorities that a gun might need to be confiscated.

jca2's avatar

@LadyMarissa: If you are homicidal they must report it, because if you leave the office and kill someone, they’re partly responsible, if they knew you were homicidal.

Yellowdog's avatar

No—only if a client is going to harm themselves or someone else.

LadyMarissa's avatar

@jca2 I think you’re saying the same thing I was attempting to say. An “ongoing threat” is the same thing as currently being “homicidal”. My state seems to depend on the doc’s knowledge of whether or not they consider their patient to be “homicidal” to the point of endangering others lives at the present time. I call it “passing the buck”. There’s no way for the authorities to know by looking which person is getting ready to go over the edge & start killing people; so, they place the psychiatrists in a position to “know their patients” well enough to determine what they “might” do. That way when the SHTF the authorities can say “it’s NOT our fault. Their doc should have warned somebody.” IF my memory serves me right, the Aurora Colorado movie theater shootings back in 2012, the guy who did it had a clean record & his psychiatrist claimed that he was a troubled youth who gave NO indication of what was about to occur. I can’t think of 1 instance when a psychiatrist was prosecuted for failure to report!!!

The laws in my state leave me feeling a bit unnerved, but I don’t have a better idea so I can’t complain until I can come up with a better plan!!!

jca2's avatar

@LadyMarissa If the patient tells the shrink, “I feel like shooting someone” then it’s up to the shrink to determine whether or not the patient is saying this jokingly or is serious. If the patient outlines an actual plan (getting a gun, etc.), then the shrink has more to go on.

LadyMarissa's avatar

@jca2 I agree with you. That’s where the “discretion” comes in…it’s up to the doc to determine whether the patient “means to” commit a crime with their comments or IF they are simply “venting”.

Think about it, a patient says they plan to buy a gun & the doc doesn’t report it in order to gain the confidence of the patient. The patient buys the gun & then goes on a shooting spree. All the doc need say, “it was never mentioned” during our therapy session & I doubt that the patient is going to tell on the doc to get the doc prosecuted. With no other evidence to the contrary, the authorities won’t even try to prosecute…simply another “catch-22” in our system!!!

Sagacious's avatar

Therapist would most likely lose their license if they reported a crime to which you confessed. That information is protected by client/therapist privilege. The privilege belongs to the client and is the only one who can break it. However, if you disclose a plan for a future crime the therapist may or may not report to authorities. Laws in the different states can be different and when the crime is one against a person rather than property, the reporting is most of the time mandatory.

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