EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

Friday, December 17, 2010

Treatment Options: Court Of Appeals Of Texas Finds Statements Not Covered By Alcohol/Drug Treatment Privilege

Texas Rule of Evidence 509(b) provides that

There is no physician-patient privilege in criminal proceedings. However, a communication to any person involved in the treatment or examination of alcohol or drug abuse by a person being treated voluntarily or being examined for admission to treatment for alcohol or drug abuse is not admissible in a criminal proceeding.

In Murray v. State, 2010 WL 4924913 (Tex.App.-Dallas 2010), the appellant claimed that he went to a healing center seeking treatment for drug or alcohol abuse, making his statements to the center's staff covered by Rule 509(b). The Court of Appeals of Texas, Dallas, disagreed.

In Murray, Daniel Edward Murray pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography, indecency with a child, and aggravated sexual assault of a child. Thereafter, Murray appealed, claiming, inter alia, that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress. In that motion, he moved to suppress statements that he made to the staff at the Sante Healing Center. Murray claimed that he went to that center to receive treatment for drug or alcohol abuse, making his statements to the staff privileged under Texas Rule of Evidence 509(b). The State countered that Murray went to the center seeking treatment for sexual issues, which is why his statements were relevant to the criminal action against him.

In siding with the State and finding that Murray's statements were not privileged, the Court of Appeals of Texas, Dallas, held that

The only evidence presented at the hearing on the motion to suppress was the Sante records. Murray entered Sante on September 7, 2003. He told Sante that he quit using drugs after his high school graduation and, other than an occasional social drink, quit using alcohol in 2000. The records contain many statements by Murray acknowledging his past drug and alcohol use and that he was drinking heavily at the time of the alleged offenses. However, his "stated goals for treatment" when he was admitted to Sante were (1) learn why I still have pedophilic thoughts; (2) learn how to manage these thoughts since they probably never go away entirely; and (3) reduce shame by talking about these issues in a safe and therapeutic setting. Murray made numerous statements while at Sante that he was seeking treatment to address his attraction to minor girls. His primary goals on discharge from Sante were (1) to be able to live a normal life; (2) to establish and learn how to maintain recovery from the urges to fantasize about young girls; and (3) to feel good about himself and not experience the extreme low self-esteem that he had been living with for years. Further, Sante's treatment plan for Murray related to sexual issues, not drug or alcohol abuse.



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