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NJ High Court Changes Standard For Mental Health Records

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The New Jersey Supreme Court has set a new policy for defendants wanting details about a victims’ mental state in a unanimous decision on Monday. The ruling struck down a lower court ruling in an Essex County case that required prosecutors to produce a victim’s mental health records for the six months before and after the alleged incident.

“A generalized statement that a victim is “crazy” doesn’t justify access to her health records,” wrote Justice Douglas Fasciale in his decision. Defense attorneys who want records must prove a victim’s mental history impacted the victim’s ability to “perceive, recall or recount” an assault, or impact their proclivity to “imagine or fabricate it” before they can get access. Even then, a judge must privately review and approve records and victims must be notified and be given a chance to respond.

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