Monday, January 12, 2009

Riverside County Sheriff's Dep't v. Zigman (Cal. Ct. App. - Dec. 23, 2008)

You're a cop. So's your spouse. He's been extremely irritable lately, so you ask him what's up. He says he's been using meth. Plus stealing it from suspects and others at work.

What do you do?

Wholly beyond the resulting ethical issue, there's also a legal one. Not surprisingly, your employer requires you to disclose when you know that a cop's stealing drugs. But it's your spouse, and the only way you know is through a privileged marital communication. Can they disclipline you for keeping quiet? (They found out, by the way, when your husband -- who had allegedly promised to stop -- was caught stealing more meth in a sting operation.)

Justice Ramirez -- in one of the rare published opinions of the Fourth/Two -- holds that you can properly be discliplined, and that the marital privilege doesn't apply in such administrative proceedings. And I think that's right.

On a non-legal front, what do you think the right penalty is for a spouse who fails to disclose this stuff. Termination from the force? Suspension for a month? Demotion? A week without pay? Counseling only?

The penalty imposed here, FWIW, was the loss of pay for a day.