View Full Version : Confidentiality and punishment for those who break it

05-18-2014, 03:40 AM
What would be a reasonable punishment for someone who breaks confidentiality in crime lab setting?

In my story, a shifty cutthroat reporter is getting inside information from an informant in the crime lab. The informant gets caught and it made me wonder what could happen to her. I know she would lose her job but are there legal ramifications? I mean, can she be charged with something or fined for breaking confidentiality?

05-18-2014, 04:22 AM
See Boston Marathon bombing: Police photographer reflects on ... (http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&ved=0CDcQtwIwAg&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cbsnews.com%2Fnews%2Fboston-marathon-bombing-police-photographer-reflects-on-decision-to-leak-pictures-of-dzhokar-tsarnaev%2F&ei=g_x3U7j6KMbQsQTW1oDYBw&usg=AFQjCNH9onjl9LOrNtAQJEpWLbjpbKBnkw&sig2=gw8SWA-cOgOL_hvV2F68qw&bvm=bv.66917471,d.cWc)

Depends a lot upon the contract that was signed.

Depends a lot on the information revealed.

Depends a lot if any laws were broken.

What does your story need?

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

05-18-2014, 04:36 AM
The tech is revealing that the DNA from an open and high profile case has been processed and the results are in. This information makes the reporter then go and ask the police about their findings.

I just need to know what could happen to the tech for revealing such information. I suppose it is up to me about how I want the contract to be written (i.e. Agreement not to disclose info pertaining to open cases etc.).

As for the laws, I'll look that up. I'm not sure what Texas' laws are when it comes to that. Since it was non-specific (the tech didn't reveal any identities), maybe all she can really do is lose her job and have the infraction put on her record for future employers to know about?

05-18-2014, 04:50 AM
Did the informant deliberately seek out the reporter and spill the beans?
From the information you've given, it could be seen as accidental:
Reporter nosing around asks casually: "Say, when did your department send the final report on Case X to the police?"
Lab Tech: "Send it? We only got the results yesterday!" She either thinks nothing of it, or thinks "Oops! At least I didn't give him the results!" and thinks nothing more of it until angry questions are asked.
I suspect that aside from legalities, it would be a matter of whether anybody wanted to have a fall-guy more than anybody wanted to save her job.

05-18-2014, 06:27 AM
As Frimble says, this could even be accidental.

She's not really releasing any information, just that the information is available. Depending upon the prosecutor, the prosecutor has a bunch of ways of avoiding the question. It's not really going to be a big deal to the prosecutor.

My guess is she ends up being chatted to by her supervisor to watch who she talks to.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

05-18-2014, 06:32 AM
Your reporter might also call this a "source who is not authorized to speak to the media." Journalists use anonymous sources all the time.

05-18-2014, 06:37 AM
If you're suggesting that announcing results are back is a break in confidentiality - I don't think it is.

The nature of those results are confidential, leaking those would be a lost job and possibly obstruction of justice charge, or something of the like.

But the status of the testing shouldn't be confidential in a legally significant way. Maybe a slap on the wrist by the employer if the lab tech was warned never to talk to reporters, regardless of subject matter (i.e. any release of information always have to go through the lab's assigned media representative, etc.).