Oregon v. Miller

709 P.2d 225
Brief Filed: 12/84
Court: Supreme Court of the State of Oregon
Year of Decision: 1985

Read the full-text amicus brief (PDF, 539KB)

Issue

Whether psychotherapist-patient privilege extended to a receptionist and to statements made to a psychiatrist that were not for the purpose of diagnosis or treatment

Index Topic

Confidentiality/Psychotherapist-Patient Privilege

Facts

Miller called a psychiatric hospital to speak to a mental health professional about a murder he committed. When the receptionist asked why he was calling, he told her that he had killed someone. The receptionist kept him on the line and called the sheriff to report the incident. When the psychiatrist got on the line, she promised Miller confidentiality and Miller gave her the details of the murder. Meanwhile, the police arrived at the phone booth from which Miller was calling, asked him about the murder and got him to take them to the body. Miller was not given Miranda warnings and the police did not have a warrant to search the hotel room in which they found the body. Although she initially refused, the psychiatrist ultimately gave police a full report of the conversation she had with Miller. Miller was convicted of manslaughter and appealed on grounds that some of the evidence should have been suppressed. On appeal, the Oregon Court of Appeals held that the trial court erred in refusing to suppress: (1) the defendant's statements to the receptionist and psychiatrist because (a) they were constitutionally involuntary, (b) obtained by an unlawful invasion of Miller's federal and state constitutional right to privacy, and (c) protected by the therapist-patient privilege; (2) the defendant's statements to the arresting officer because he was never given Miranda warnings; (3) evidence seized from his person because the arrest was unlawful; and (4) the evidence obtained during the warrantless search of the hotel room. On rehearing, en banc, the court of appeals reversed the panel and affirmed the conviction. It held that the statements made to the receptionist were not inadmissible because the receptionist was not a person reasonably necessary for the transmission of the confidential communication and the defendant's statements to the psychiatrist were not privileged because they were not made for the purpose of diagnosis or treatment.

APA's Position

APA's filed an amicus brief arguing that: (1) Oregon's psychotherapist-patient privilege statute is based on important policy and constitutional considerations; and (2) the language of Oregon's psychotherapist-patient privilege statute, the relevant case law, and the policies and constitutional principles underlying the privilege require recognition of the privilege in this case.

Results

The Oregon Supreme Court upheld the appeals court and did not extend the privilege to the communications between Miller and the receptionist and the psychiatrist.