Free To Speak: What You Need To Know About Attorney-Client Privilege
You've undoubtedly heard of the term "attorney-client privilege," but how confident can you really be about the communications you have with your attorney? Read on to learn more about this important and powerful legal concept.
What Does Attorney-Client Privilege Mean?
Your attorney needs to know everything possible about your case to plan a good defense for you. With that idea in mind, the concept of completely private and protected communications with your attorney came about. The concept is simple: with few exceptions, everything you say, write, send, demonstrate, or otherwise communicate to your attorney or a member of that attorney's legal team is completely privileged, and the attorney will never be forced to reveal that information. This privilege extends long past your association with them and begins with your first utterance, even if you never actually hire them. Additionally, any past acts are also covered under this privilege.
Important Exceptions to Note
Some important exceptions to the attorney client privilege do exist, where you might assume that your communications with an attorney are private, but may not necessarily be so, such as:
1. Third party presence. It may be a total shock to some, but taking a friend along for emotional support for a meeting with your attorney could invalidate your attorney-client privilege. Along those same lines, if you meet or speak with an attorney in a crowded location, where your conversations could be overheard, you may also be putting your attorney-client privilege at risk. For example, if you meet with your attorney in a restaurant, you may have an issue if the tables or booths allow for others to hear your conversation.
2. Intentions. It's important that when you speak to the attorney it is for the specific purpose of seeking legal advice. For example, if you just happen to meet an attorney at a softball game and have a friendly conversation with them, that communication would not be covered under attorney-client privilege.
3. Future acts. While past acts are covered, communication about possible future acts is not. Additionally, information about covering up a crime that could take place in the future is also not covered. Not only is the information not considered privileged but the attorney must also report the information to law enforcement or risk violating their duties as officers of the court.
Be sure to double check about privileged communications with your criminal defense attorney before you speak, just to be on the safe side.