Chapter 4 - §13. Domestic-violence counselor-victim privilege

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§13. Domestic-violence counselor-victim privilege

§13.1. Overview. A victim of domestic violence, whether or not a party to the action, has a privilege to refuse to disclose (and prevent another person from disclosing) a confidential communication between the victim and a domestic-violence counselor. Evid. C. §1037.5. The purpose of the domestic-violence counselor-victim privilege is to encourage victims of domestic violence to provide counselors with all the information necessary to give advice or guidance following a domestic-violence incident by alleviating the victim's apprehension that such information will be disclosed to other persons without the victim's consent. See Levenson, Levenson on California Criminal Procedure §22:29 (The Rutter Group).

§13.2. Elements of domestic-violence counselor-victim privilege. For the domestic-violence counselor-victim privilege to apply, there must be (1) a domestic-violence counselor-victim relationship and (2) a confidential communication. See Evid. C. §§1037.2(a), 1037.5.

1. Domestic-violence counselor-victim relationship. The domestic-violence counselor-victim relationship is established when a victim of domestic violence transmits confidential information to a domestic-violence counselor. See Evid. C. §1037.2(a).

(1) Domestic-violence counselor. A domestic-violence counselor is a person who is employed with a domestic-violence-victim service organization as defined by Evid. C. §1037.1(b), whether monetarily compensated or not, with the primary purpose of providing advice or assistance to victims of domestic violence, and who has received the required training as set forth under Evid. C. §1037.1(a)(2).


In 2017, the California Legislature expanded the definition of a domestic-violence-victim service organization to include programs located on the campus of a public or private higher-learning institution that have the primary mission of providing support or advocacy services to domestic-violence victims. See Stats. 2017, ch. 178, §1.

(2) Victim. A victim is any person who suffered "domestic violence" as defined in Fam. C. §6211. See Evid. C. §§1037, 1037.7; People v. Wang (2d Dist.2020) 46 Cal.App.5th 1055, 1076-77. Under this definition, domestic violence must be perpetrated against one of the following:

(a) A current or former spouse. Fam. C. §6211(a).

(b) A current or former cohabitant. Fam. C. §6211(b); see Fam. C. §6209.

(c) A person with whom the perpetrator had or is having a dating or engagement relationship. Fam. C. §6211(c).

(d) A person with whom the perpetrator has or had a child if presumptive paternity under the Uniform Parentage Act (UPA) applies. Fam. C. §6211(d); see Fam...

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