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National Crime Victim Law Institute

New Resources to Protect Rights of Violence Against Women Victims

April 01, 2011

To better assist victims’ rights attorneys and advocates working with victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, dating violence, and other crimes against women, NCVLI’s Responding to Violence Against Women Project publishes “White Papers” that are intended to provide a critical analysis on important victims’ rights topics. 

The latest in the series includes a paper on refusing discovery requests of privileged materials pretrial in criminal cases:

Although defendants routinely subpoena third parties to turn over documents pretrial, the general rule is that there is no constitutional right to pretrial discovery.  Further, constitutional protections afforded to victims under some states’ victims’ rights laws bar pretrial discovery.  Despite this general rule, many states have created processes by which defendants receive documents from third parties - including victims’ privileged documents - pretrial.  Requiring the victim to turn over privileged material - material like notes from therapy sessions and rape crisis counseling records - undermines victims’ privacy rights and may even prevent victims from seeking help at all.  This paper sets forth the standards courts often use in determining whether a victim must be required to turn over privileged material. It also arms the practitioner with arguments for why a victim should never be required to turn over such material pretrial.

 Learn more about NCVLI’s Responding to Violence Against Project here.