Benton v. Superior Court
In Benton v. Superior Court, 182 Ariz. 466, 897 P.2d 1352 (App. 1994), an uncooperative victim/witness of a domestic violence incident attempted to preclude the state from obtaining her medical records in its case against the defendant/abuser, who was charged with aggravated assault and burglary.
Division One of this court held that "the State may, without the permission of a victim, obtain the victim's medical records when such records are needed for the prosecution of a criminal case." Id. at 467, 897 P.2d at 1353.
Benton involved unique concerns peculiar to domestic violence cases, in which "it is not unusual that a victim does not wish to cooperate with the prosecution." Id. at 469, 897 P.2d at 1355.
Benton addressed the victim's privilege, not the defendant's.
The Court held:
"The State may, without the permission of a victim, obtain the victim's medical records when such records are needed for the prosecution of a criminal case."
Benton involved an uncooperative victim of a domestic violence incident who refused to release her medical records to the state to use in its prosecution of her partner, the alleged abuser.
In concluding that the victim's "medical records are neither protected by the Victims' Bill of Rights, A.R.S. 13-4419(C), 13-4434, nor the physician-patient privilege," 182 Ariz. at 470, 897 P.2d at 1356, the court reasoned that, "since there was no physician-patient privilege at common law, it must be strictly construed." Id. at 469, 897 P.2d at 1355.
The court further stated that "the public's interest in protecting victims outweighs the privacy interest reflected in the physician-patient privilege." Id. at 468, 897 P.2d at 1354.