For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 6

Ethical Considerations in
Representing Clients at
Risk of Suicide

Stephanie K. Benecchi

C

ontent warning: This article discusses
suicide. If you are thinking about suicide
or in need of emotional support, the National
Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available to all, free,
and confidential. The Lifeline can be reached
by phone at 1.800.273.8255 or chat at (https://
suicidepreventionlifeline.org/talk-to-someonenow/). Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers Pennsylvania
is also available to provide confidential services,
support, and information to Pennsylvania lawyers,
judges, their family members, and law students at
1.888.999.1941.
Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in
the United States. As criminal defense attorneys, we
counsel our clients during one of the most stressful
and challenging experiences in their lives. While we
are there to provide legal services, if we are aware
of warning signs of suicide, we may be life-saving.

6

For The Defense

l

Vol. 4, Issue 3

In counseling an at-risk client, you or your client
may be concerned whether and to what extent
the client's communications with a mental-health
professional are shielded from disclosure to law
enforcement authorities. The answer depends on a
number of factors: the physical location of the client
and provider, the type of provider, and whether
the charges your client faces-either now or in the
future-are based in federal or state law.
Federal Rule of Evidence 501 recognizes a privilege
under state law only when the state law controls the
rule of decision.1 Where Federal law controls, the
Supreme Court recognized a psychotherapist-patient
privilege in 1996.2 The Supreme Court determined
the federal privilege applied to communications
between patients and psychiatrists, psychologists,
and social workers.3 Although all 50 States and the
District of Columbia have enacted into law some


https://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now/ https://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now/ https://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now/

For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3

Contents
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 1
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 2
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - Contents
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 4
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 5
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 6
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