Understanding the Privileged Communication Statutes
Privileged communication statutes protect certain communications from being used in a court of law. This is intended to protect people from divulging information or communications that could result in a harmful legal judgment. Certain relationships and contexts are specifically protected.
What Are Privileged Communication Statutes?
In the interest of protecting clients, partners, and others from being forced to self-incriminate by revealing information that could result in a harmful judgment in a court of law. There are certain specific conditions under which privileged communications statutes may go into effect.
Here are the three conditions that, generally speaking, must be in effect before these statutes activate:
- Protected relationship: The people involved must be in a relationship recognized and protected by the law.
- Privacy: Communication must have happened in a private setting where both parties can expect to reasonably have privacy for their communications.
- Not shared: Sharing the information with someone else who isn't part of the protected relationship voids the privileged status of information. Anyone who's an agent of one of the parties, however, who hears the communication in the course of work, doesn't void the privilege.
Any one of these, if they're missing or don't apply to a conversation, is enough to revoke the privileged status. Plus, if the information is casually shared or relayed in a public place, then the intention of keeping the information private isn't there and there is no entitlement to keeping the conversation private.
Why Does Privileged Communication Exist?
The purpose of privileged communications, in a nutshell, is to protect relationships such as husband and wife, attorney and client, and other common relationships in society that could reasonably be expected to have privacy and a certain level of intimacy. Some relationships by their very essence denote a level of closeness.
- Family relationships: Married partners, domestic unions, and similar couple relationships are intensely close and conversations between two people in such a relationship are often compared with an individual's internal thoughts.
- Attorney and client: Because attorneys are considered to be agents of their clients, any conversation between them is generally considered to be privileged.
- Physician and patient: Doctors treating patients are engaging in protected and privileged conversations with the people they treat.
The basis for this rests in how society understands these relationships:
- Vulnerability: Privileged conversations often carry information of a very personal nature---revealing this personal information could inflict harm, either intentionally or unintentionally. One person's position in the relationship may be vulnerable, too. A sick person may be, generally speaking, less alert or capable of fending for themselves and making their own decisions. They may need to rely on someone else's decision-making.
- Privacy: Privileged communication carries an expectation of privacy. People often share personal information in these relationships because they need to in order to carry out their own goals. They also generally assume that the other person won't be spreading around their personal information.
- Agency: People share personal information in instances where doing so is an important part of accomplishing goals.
So, in other words, these relationships are very personal, close, and carry a certain amount of vulnerability. These are reasons to protect them. Sharing these conversations without permission is almost comparable to reading someone else's mind and making their thoughts public.
How Do They Relate to CCaaS, UCaaS, and VoIP Software?
Software and communications services do carry communications but don't remove the privileged status of a conversation. Because communications services are merely a conduit for communications, they don't count as a party to the conversation. So a conversation between an attorney and a client via a phone service remains privileged.
Ensuring that these communications remain private is an important part of providing phone service for these industries.
What Do Privileged Communication Statutes Mean for Your Business?
Privileged communications, occurring through a phone service, are protected legally. Staying compliant with these standards means protecting communications and ensuring privacy. Relationships create specific contexts in which conversations are privileged.
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