Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

California: Waiver of Private Psychotherapist-Patient Privilege an Unreasonable Condition of Parole

The California Court of Appeal (2nd District) agreed with a superior court that it was unreasonable for a parole officer to insist that a parolee must, as a condition of parole, waive his confidential privacy privilege with his private psychotherapist.

Reynaldo Corona was released on parole in May 2006 after serving 3 years for molesting his stepdaughters over a span of several years. He was given five special conditions of parole: (1) attend the parole outpatient clinic, (2) participate in programs specific to his offense history as directed by his parole officer, (3) participate in an approved psychiatric treatment program, (4) participate in the sexually violent predator program, and (5) submit to any psychological or physio-logical assessment to assist in treatment planning and parole supervision due to his prison psychological history.

Corona asserted he followed all of those conditions to minimize his chances of reoffending, and also retained a pri-vate psychotherapist specializing in sex offenders.

Six months later, Corona’s parole officer asked him to sign a privilege waiver permitting his private therapist to share information with parole officials. Corona was told he must sign the waiver if he wanted to continue seeing the private therapist. He declined and instead filed a habeas petition in superior court.

The court ruled that “it would be against public policy to prohibit [Corona] from seeking private counsel and being able to disclose to them in a confidential manner the things in his life that may be needing to really be addressed if he’s going to get over this problem. So I’m going to prohibit that.”

The parole officer appealed, claiming that the requested waiver fit into the fourth parole condition. However, Corona took the fourth condition to be a waiver of privilege for a state-supplied therapist. The officer persisted, claiming that Co-rona was revealing more to his private therapist than to his state therapist.

At the outset, the appellate court noted that participation in private therapy was not prohibited by Corona’s conditions of parole. The court relied on In re Stevens, 119 Cal.App. 4th 1228 (Cal.App. 2d Dist. 2004) [PLN, July 2005, p.22] for limitations on restrictions that may be placed on parolees. At a minimum, such restrictions must be reasonably related to the compelling state interest of fostering a law-abiding lifestyle. A condition that bars lawful activity must be related to the crime of conviction or be for the purpose of deterring future criminality. However, in examining the record, the appellate court could not identify a “nefarious reason for Corona’s decision to engage in additional therapy.”

The court also rejected the parole officer’s reliance on Evidence Code §§ 1012 and 1024 as exceptions to the privi-lege rule. Those provisions require a therapist to warn an intended victim or the police if he or she determines that a pa-tient presents a serious danger of violence to another. There was no such indication in this case.

Further, the appellate court was incensed that Corona was threatened with violation of his parole for refusing to sign the waiver, because that implicated his right to due process. Accordingly, the superior court’s decision was affirmed. See: In re Corona, 160 Cal.App.4th 315 (Cal.App. 2d Dist. 2008).

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

In re Corona