The Tarasoff Statute is precedent-setting and specifies that the therapist or counsellor has a duty to warn “where the patient has communicated a serious threat of physical violence against a reasonably identifiable victim or victims.” In these situations, the therapist’s duty is to make a “reasonable effort to communicate the threat to the victim or victims and to a law enforcement agency.” Failure to act may also result in potential civil liabilities.
A new California statute (AB733) became effective January 1, 2007 and clarifies further Tarasoff Mandated Reporting: The court expanded the definition of Civil Code 43.92 to include family members as persons covered within the statute:
The intent of the statute is clear. A therapist has a duty to warn if, and only if, the threat which the therapist has learned – whether from the patient or a family member – actually leads him or her to believe the patient poses a risk of grave bodily injury to another person. “The expanded duty from now on applies to credible threats received from the patient, or the patient’s family, however, the court made clear that its decision did not go beyond “family members.”