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Clergy-Penitent Privilege Waived

Murder suspect lost privilege when he confessed murder to a law enforcement officer

Key point 3-08.05. In most states a counselee can waive the clergy-penitent privilege by disclosing the privileged communication to someone other than the minister. In some states the minister also may waive the privilege.

* The Georgia Supreme Court ruled that the clergy-penitent privilege did not apply to a confession made by a murder suspect to a prison chaplain, since the suspect had waived the privilege when he confessed to a law enforcement officer. A criminal defendant who was in prison awaiting trial for murder told a prison chaplain that he wanted to confess to the crime. The chaplain testified at the defendant's trial that he told the defendant that "if you want to do a confession, you don't do it to the chaplains. You do it to the proper authorities." The defendant asked to speak to a law enforcement officer, and one was immediately sent to the defendant's cell to take his confession. ...

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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:
  • September 1, 2011

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