Laws about Private Communications
New Jersey

Last Updated: April 2023
Question Answer

What relationships qualify for privileged communications and how is "privilege" defined?

N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:84A-22.15

  • A victim counselor has a privilege not to be examined as a witness in a civil or criminal proceeding with regard to any confidential communication.
  • A victim counselor or victim cannot be compelled to provide testimony that would identify the name, address, location, or telephone number of a shelter that provided temporary emergency shelter to the victim of the offense that is the subject of the proceeding, unless the facility is a party to the proceeding.    
  • State v. J.G., 619 A.2d 232, 236 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 1993)
    • The privilege is broad enough to encompass both direct and indirect victims of crimes of violence.
    • The person whose statements are protected under this privilege does not have to be the individual upon whom the crime was perpetrated.

Is the privilege qualified or absolute?

Qualified by statute

Who holds the privilege and has the right to waive it? What are the standards for waiver of the privilege? 

Holder of Privilege:

  • Privilege must be claimed by the victim counselor, unless otherwise instructed by prior written consent of the victim. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:84A-22.15

Waiver of Privilege:   N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:84A-22.15

  • Waiver must be in writing, and must be given prior to a proceeding.
  • Victim, an incompetent victim’s guardian, or a deceased victim’s executor or administrator may waive the privilege, unless the victim’s guardian, executor or administrator is the defendant or has an interest adverse to the victim.  
  • Privilege may be knowingly waived by a juvenile.
  • If a minor victim is incapable of knowingly waiving the privilege, the victim’s parent or guardian may waive the privilege, unless the victim’s parent or guardian is the defendant or has an interest adverse to the victim.
  • State v. J.G., 619 A.2d 232, 238 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 1993)
    • The power to waive the privilege rests solely with the victim.
    • Mistaken release of the confidential files by the victim counselor does not constitute a waiver of the privilege.
  • Parent could not waive child’s victim-counselor privilege when parent had interest adverse to the child. State v. C.E.L., No. A-5783-13T1, 2018 WL 4167729, at *21 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. Aug. 31, 2018)

Are there any exceptions to the privilege?

  • Disclosure to a defendant of statements or information given by a victim to a victim-witness coordinator, where such disclosure is required by the State or Federal Constitution. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:84A-22.16
  • A person waives his or her right or privilege to refuse to disclose or to prevent another from disclosing a specified matter if he or she or any other person while the holder thereof has (a) contracted with anyone not to claim the privilege or (b) without coercion and with knowledge of his or her right or privilege, made disclosure of any part of the privileged matter or consented to such disclosure by anyone. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:84A-29; NJ R EVID N.J.R.E. 530

When and how may a judge review case documents in private?

Generally prohibited

  • State v. J.G., 619 A.2d 232, 237 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 1993)
    • Made the victim-counselor privilege absolute and prohibited any in camera inspection (i.e. private review by the judge) of records privileged under this statute absent “compelling circumstances.”
    • Even a preliminary disclosure of the victim counselor’s records intrudes upon the victim’s rights and dilutes the absolute nature of the statutory privilege.

What other definitions are important to know?

Confidential Communication:   N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:84A-22.14(b)

  • Any information exchanged between a victim and a victim counselor in private or in the presence of a third party who is necessary to facilitate communication or further the counseling process and which is disclosed in the course of the counselor’s treatment of the victim for any emotional or psychological condition resulting from an act of violence.
  • Includes advice, reports, or working papers given or made in the course of counseling, as well as all information received by the victim counselor from the victim.     


  • A person who consults a counselor for the purpose of securing advice, counseling or assistance concerning a mental, physical or emotional condition caused by an act of violence. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:84A-22.14(c)

Victim Counseling Center:

  • Any office, institution or center that offers assistance to victims and their families through crisis intervention, medical and legal accompaniment, and follow-up counseling. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:84A-22.14(d)

Victim Counselor:

  • A person engaged in any office, institution or victim counseling center, who is under the control of a direct services supervisor of the center, and who has a primary function of rendering advice, counseling, and assistance to victims of acts of violence and has undergone 40 hours of training. Includes a rape care advocate as defined by New Jersey law.    N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:84A-22.14(e)

Training Requirements for Victim Counselors 

  • 40 hours of training. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:84A-22.14(e)

Anything else I should know?

A disclosure which is itself privileged or otherwise protected by the common law, statutes or rules of court of this State, or by lawful contract, shall not constitute a waiver under this section. The failure of a witness to claim a right or privilege with respect to one question shall not operate as a waiver with respect to any other question. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:84A-29; NJ R EVID N.J.R.E. 530

Statutory citation(s):

N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 2A:84A-22.13 to 2A:84A-22.16, 22.29

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