Speaking Freely: What To Know About Attorney Client Privilege

Posted on: 2 August 2016

If you've found yourself in an unfortunate situation and now require the services of an attorney, you may be wondering how much you should divulge to that attorney. To get the best defense possible, you should ensure that you tell your attorney as much as possible about your case, and you should rest assured that your communications with your attorney is protected. To learn more about what client attorney privilege can do for you, and the exceptions to this rule, read on.

Why is attorney client privilege so important?

Your attorney needs to get a full picture of your situation in order to prepare a case to defend you, so everything you say, write, email, or communicate in any way is protected from disclosure by that attorney. Your attorney will never be compelled to reveal anything you say, and that protection extends for your entire lifetime. You don't even have to have a signed contract with the attorney; you are still protected. If you later decide to use a different attorney, any information you provide the first attorney is protected regardless of whether you have retained, or even paid, either attorney. No matter what you have done in the past, all communication, with very few exceptions, is protected and held secret.

Important exceptions to the attorney client privilege to note.

To benefit from this privilege, make sure that you don't find yourself in one of the below situations where attorney client privilege will not protect you.

1. A third party is present. It's natural to bring along a friend or family member to your attorney meetings, but you should understand that anything said while another person is present is not protected and may be subject to questioning in a court of law. It should be noted that communication with anyone on your attorney's legal team, such as a paralegal, is still protected. The third party situation can be extended to apply to anywhere that your conversation could be accidentally overhead, such as a restaurant or a crowded courthouse hallway.

2. The intent is in question. While this privilege is relatively far-reaching, casual conversations with people who just happen to be lawyers are not considered privileged. Your intent must be understood by both parties and you must be actively and knowingly seeking legal advice.

3. The intent to commit a future act. All past acts are subject to attorney client privilege, but threats or information about any future acts are not protected. Attorneys are considered officers of the court, and they are required to report any information about threats to harm a person, commit a crime or anything else that could be construed as a future "bad act". The only exception to this rule, is that you are allowed to pose hypothetical questions or scenarios to your attorney without losing the client attorney privilege.

For more information, contact a criminal lawyer in your area.