LOS ANGELES (CN) - California's new child porn law violates the Constitution and patient confidentiality by forcing therapists to report children for "sexting," and threatening to prosecute therapists who do not report any patient who has ever viewed child pornography online, therapists claim in court.
Three therapists sued Attorney General Kamala D. Harris and L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey in Superior Court on Friday, seeking a permanent injunction against enforcement of Assembly Bill 1775
, an amendment to the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act.
"While child pornography is despicable, morally repugnant and the product of child sexual abuse, A.B. 1775's mandated reporting of child pornography viewing by psychotherapy patients unjustifiably violates their constitutional right of privacy regarding communications to their therapists, the confidentiality of which is critical and essential to the efficacy of psychotherapy to treat mental health issues," the Feb. 20 Superior Court lawsuit states.
Family therapists Don L. Matthews, Michael L. Alvarez and counselor William Owen claim the amendment "unjustifiably" violates patients' constitutional right to privacy "regarding communications to their therapists."
They say the amendment requires them to report to authorities any patient who has "ever downloaded or viewed child pornography on the Internet or on his cell phone."
Any therapist who fails to comply with the law may face criminal prosecution and/or the loss of their license to practice, the plaintiffs say.
The therapists are concerned that if the amendment is enforced, patients with sexual disorders, such as pedophilia, will avoid seeking help because of the threat of criminal prosecution.
They say the amendment "dramatically and unconstitutionally" extends the law's reach to include patients who have looked at child pornography online, even when there is no evidence that the patient has sexually abused a child.
Worse, the plaintiffs say, the law requires them to report minors who look at sexually explicit self-portraits, or "selfies," of other minors.
"This practice, known as 'sexting,' does not involve any child abuse that CANRA [Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act] was intended to prevent and its mandated reporting will serve only to shame and embarrass the minor patients involved," the 29-page lawsuit states.
The therapists are represented by Mark Hardiman with Nelson Hardiman.
Neither Harris nor Lacey's offices responded to emailed requests for comment Friday.