In a domestic violence case, the victim’s information is kept confidential. In this case, a not-for-profit corporation that houses victims of domestic refused to provide the address and telephone number of one victim when asked by a court to produce such in relation to a domestic violence case the victim filed against her partner. The victim’s partner is charged with various felonies arising from domestic assault.
According to the non-profit corporation, Social Services Law prohibits the release of the actual address where the victim is being sheltered. The non-profit corporation also asserted that the information sought is also shielded by a common-law victim-counselor privilege.
But the court did not consider the non-profit corporation’s arguments. The court, instead, pointed out that the New York Code of Rules and Regulations provides for access to confidential information when permitted by an order of a court of competent jurisdiction.
The court noted that purpose of the Social Services Law is to insure a stable and secure funding source for shelters and programs, and to provide for the first time a statutory recognition of domestic violence programs and shelters as what they are — services and programs for victims of domestic violence.
It is recognized that the safety of domestic violence victims requires that the locations of shelters be kept confidential to protect them of further violence from their abusers. The court said it did not want the confidentiality of the personal information of the victim to be impaired, but negotiations on an alternative means to secure the victim’s appearance in the case have failed.
The court ruled that the address and telephone number of the victim should be disclosed. The court explained that federal public policy does not favor the provision of confidential services to victims at the expense of legitimate law enforcement purposes. The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 requires the U.S. Postal Service to set regulations to secure the confidentiality of domestic violence shelters and abused persons’ addresses. The court pointed out that those regulations must not prohibit the disclosure of addresses to State or Federal agencies for legitimate law enforcement or other governmental purposes.
The court junked the argument that the addresses and phone numbers of domestic violence victims are protected by a common-law privilege noting that no privilege exists between a battered woman and her counselor. In the absence of a statute creating a privilege between two particular parties, no communication is privileged, the court said. In any event, addresses and telephone numbers do not normally come within the scope of statutory privileges.
On whether to pursue a criminal prosecution is left to the discretion of the prosecutor. That discretion may not be defeated by a court, let alone a complainant or a social services agency. Victim services may be advised to develop procedures to cope with the realities of ongoing court proceedings, but must comply with this court’s subpoenas.
Being engaged in a case involving domestic violence is difficult. There are New York Domestic Violence Attorneys who will stand by you and help see you through your case. These Attorneys can argue your side and make sure that you are compensated.
Stephen Bilkis & Associates with its NY Family Lawyers, has offices in the New York Metropolitan area, including Corona, NY. Our Attorneys will advice and guide you through your difficult situation. Without our Attorneys, you may lose your rights which may cost you a significant amount of money.
In addition to Family Law, Stephen Bilkis and Associates will recommend New York Assault Lawyers who will help you.