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Recent Developments in Alabama Regarding Confidential and Privileged Information

In an important decision, an Alabama court ruled that the clergy-penitent privilege does not apply to conversations with a minister in which the counselee communicates a threat to kill or seriously harm another person.

Alabama
State:
Key point. The clergy-penitent privilege may not extend to conversations in which a counselee threatens to kill or seriously harm another person, since the counselee has no reasonable expectation that the minister will maintain the confidentiality of such information. The counselee should assume that the minister will feel morally obligated to warn the intended victim.

In an important decision, an Alabama court ruled that the clergy-penitent privilege does not apply to conversations with a minister in which the counselee communicates a threat to kill or seriously harm another person. An adult male (the "defendant") was convicted of murdering his girlfriend. The defendant appealed his conviction on several grounds, including the fact that the trial court improperly allowed into evidence communications that he insisted were protected by the clergy-penitent privilege. During the trial, ...

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Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy.

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Posted:
  • November 1, 1999

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