Frequently Asked Questions About Tarasoff Ruling

As vintage car collectors, it is of utmost importance to do your research. It pays to know the nitty-gritty of these cars, the difference between each type, and so forth. You can go through the internet for some relevant information.

However, since they are vintage, the majority of the important data are offline. Often in books and movies.

If you have been collecting vintage cars for years, you will notice that these cars have been used widely in movies, particularly for the crime genre. In fact, these types of cars must have gained more popularity because of these films.

Crime fiction films are common adaptations of crime fiction books. According to pop culture, crime is one of the most attractive genres of fiction. This genre, along with romance and science fantasy, has been the focus of best-selling books. 

The main reason for its popularity is it gives a different kind of excitement. Readers and viewers feel on edge, always ready for action as they immerse themselves in the story.

They even like to play detective, making guesses at every turn of their favorite whodunit plot. Additionally, crime books also generally have a good and fulfilling portrayal of justice.

Unfortunately, these favorite plots may also happen in real life. According to FBI statistics, around 1.3 million violent crimes occurred in 2019 alone. This number is already 0.4% greater than 2015’s crime rates.

Aggravated assault, robbery, rape, and murder are among the top violent crimes apparent until today.

But unlike in the books and movies, real crimes often remain unresolved, with no justice served to the victims. Culprits buy their way out or just aren’t found. 


While fictional crimes leave a significant impact, real-life crimes are seemingly a part of the normal. Sometimes, we even reduce violent crimes to mere numbers instead of full-blown stories in need of proper closure.

Luckily, professionals and lawmakers continuously take action to avoid such unfortunate encounters. Existing laws now cover discrimination and even stalking. One particular law, the Tarasoff Ruling, focuses on preventing violent crimes by protecting the potential victim.

Most laws concern the general public and law enforcement officers. However, the Tarasoff Ruling focuses on a more specific group, particularly mental health professionals.

If you want to learn more about this law, then you’re in for a treat. Today, we’ll be sharing with you some of the frequently asked questions about the Tarasoff Ruling.

What is the Tarasoff ruling?

The Tarasoff rule states that a mental health professional should protect potential victims against a severe threat. The court says that providers can breach patient confidentiality to keep a potential victim from harm.

Tarasoff ruling has since been adopted across many US states.

Why is the Tarasoff case important?

The Tarasoff case determined that patient-therapist confidentiality is not absolute. Since the ruling, there are certain situations where mental health professionals can override client privilege. It is part of their duty to protect potential victims.

What states have tarasoff laws?

States requiring therapists to warn or protect (mandatory duty) are:

  1. Alabama
  2. California
  3. Colorado
  4. Idaho
  5. Indiana
  6. Iowa
  7. Kentucky
  8. Louisiana
  9. Massachusetts
  10. Michigan
  11. Minnesota
  12. Missouri
  13. Montana
  14. Nebraska
  15. New Hampshire
  16. New Jersey
  17. New York
  18. Ohio
  19. Pennsylvania
  20. Puerto Rico
  21. Tennessee
  22. Utah
  23. Vermont
  24. Virginia
  25. Washington
  26. Wisconsin

On the other hand, the cities below do not require providers to breach confidentiality (permissive duty).

  1. Alaska
  2. Arizona
  3. Arkansas
  4. Connecticut
  5. District of Columbia
  6. Florida
  7. Hawaii
  8. Kansas
  9. Mississippi
  10. New Mexico
  11. Oklahoma
  12. Oregon
  13. Rhode Island
  14. South Carolina
  15. South Dakota
  16. Texas
  17. West Virginia
  18. Wyoming

In Maine, Nevada, North Carolina, and North Dakota, therapists are not obliged to notify potential victims.

Who is Tatiana Tarasoff?

Tatiana Tarasoff is a university student killed by graduate student Prosenjit Poddar in 1969. The two went out on several dates until Poddar developed an unhealthy obsession with Tarasoff. After she rejected him, Poddar went through psychological counseling.

There, he confessed his desire to kill Tarasoff to his therapist. Even as the therapist tried to deescalate the situation, his stalking behavior persisted. The culmination of Tarasoff’s murder happened in October 1969.

Where is Prosenjit Poddar now?

Poddar has been deported to India after serving five years in prison. It was the final result after the lawyer appealed the conviction. Sources say that he has a wife and daughter.

What is the difference between the duty to warn and the duty to protect?

According to the 1974 Tarasoff decision, mental health professionals have a duty to warn identifiable victims.  Additionally, they must protect or reveal confidential information to relevant parties, like the police.

These are initially applicable in the context of injury or homicide. However, it may also apply in a warning and protection against the following:

  2. Child abuse
  3. Incest
  4. Battery
  5. Self-injury
  6. Abortion

What does tarasoff mean?

It refers to a court decision that limits a client’s right to confidentiality. It came from the last name of university student Tatiana Tarasoff who was killed in 1969.

How did the 1976 Tarasoff decision differ from the 1974 Tarasoff decision?

The 1974 decision required therapists to notify a potential victim of the threat to their life. The 1976 rehearing said that mental health professionals take the necessary steps to protect the threatened individual. Thus, therapists should not just warn but also protect.

What does the duty to protect mean?

If a therapist concludes that their patient intends to commit an act of violence, they should protect the other individual. Therapists should take the necessary precautions to prevent harm. They can either reach out to the concerned party or the authorities.

What is not confidential with a therapist?

The American Psychological Association gives four situations where a therapist may breach confidentiality. First, the client presents an imminent threat towards themselves or to others. Second, there is a billing-related situation that requires disclosure.

Third, information sharing is necessary among multiple healthcare providers. Lastly, disclosing the information is part of the patient’s treatment.


What are patients’ rights when it comes to mental health services?

A patient seeking mental health treatment has the right to privileged communication with a therapist. However, that is not absolute as the Tarasoff ruling has established.

Patients also have the right to receive medical care in an emergency, informed consent, and continuity of care, among others.

What does the phrase duty to warn mean?

It calls on therapists to notify a potential victim identified by their client. The duty to protect acknowledges that there are exemptions to client confidentiality.

What were the two competing issues the California Supreme Court had to figure out how you balance in the tarasoff cases?

They had to strike a balance between patient confidentiality and protection of the public interest. The court determined that “protective privilege ends where social peril begins.” It means that a therapist should breach confidentiality to prevent clients from harming themselves or others.

Is Texas A tarasoff state?

No. The Tarasoff decision was not formally adopted in Texas. There, mental health providers do not have a duty to warn and protect potential victims revealed by their clients.

What is the ruling in Tarasoff v Regents of the University of California?

A therapist should protect the potential victim once they learn that their patient intends to carry out a threat to another person. The California court held a professional’s dual duty, which they can fulfill through the following.

  1. By notifying the victim,
  2. Reporting the threat to the authorities and
  3. Taking whatever measures to get the victim out of harm’s way.


Since you’re now well-versed with the Tarasoff Ruling, you can now help others by educating them a bit about it too. Although there’s a thing called therapist confidentiality, the imminent danger to a third party trumps any non-disclosure agreements.

Tarasoff Ruling is just some of the many laws you may need to learn about when writing a novel. This rule can make any crime novel much more exciting as it can be a major plot point. 


But really, this rule is essential in saving lives. This piece of information can be of great help in crucial situations. If you have a therapist of your own, you may want to ask them more about this topic.

And if they don’t know about this, you should encourage them to read up on it. It may not be as commonly used as other major laws, but it still can save lives.

Additionally, if you or someone you know is exhibiting dangerous symptoms, think about this law. You can talk them into seeking medical attention. Just make sure you’re also suggesting them to a therapist who’s aware of the Tarasoff Ruling.

We hope you won’t have to use this law in any way, but it’s better to be well-educated than ignorant.

With all the apparent crime fiction in popular media, there shouldn’t be any more space for it in the real world. But real crimes are just as abundant as their fictional counterparts. So, it’s always important to learn about laws and precautions, to always remain safe and vigilant. 

Through proper education and compliance to simple rules such as Tarasoff Ruling, the country can move forward and lower crime rates. Sooner or later, we’ll be able to confine crimes where they belong—solely for fiction.

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