Let's Be Honest: What Clients Should Know About Privileged Information
When you speak with a lawyer, what you say to them is highly protected. That means you can speak freely without worrying about the consequences of what you say. This privilege has its limits, though, and if you are working with a criminal law attorney, it's vital to understand them. Read on and find out more.
Being Honest Improves Your Case
It's not just because it's the moral thing to do. Honesty, when it comes to legal matters, is vital to the creation of a good defense. Only by being completely forthcoming with your lawyer can you expect them to properly defend you. The main issue is that knowing about things ahead of time gives your lawyer time to refute negative issues. For example, they can provide the court with an explanation of your actions despite the state's allegations.
All Communications Are Covered
The attorney-client privilege rules extend beyond the spoken word. It covers your email, texts, phone conversations, written work, and more. When you tell your lawyer something, they don't have to reveal what you said — even in court while under oath. However, you should know about a few important situations in which you might not be protected by this privilege.
When the Attorney-Client Privilege Is Not in Play
- Casual Conservations — You must be specifically speaking to an attorney for legal advice. If you happen to strike up a conversation with an attorney in a doctor's waiting room, whatever you said to that attorney is not considered privileged.
- Under Contract — You should always sign a contract with your lawyer, but some types of communication may be covered even if you have not yet signed the contract or if you change your mind about hiring the lawyer before you sign it. For example, you can interview lawyers and provide them with information about your case and still enjoy the privilege of confidentiality.
- Threats of Future Acts — Another big exception is when a client makes threats, boasts, or gives the lawyer the idea that they are about to commit a crime. Lawyers, regardless of the confidentiality agreement, are bound by the law to report such threats.
- Public Knowledge — Another exception involves communication that was not meant only for the lawyer. For example, if you tell your lawyer information that was overheard by others or that you intentionally allowed to be made public, it's no longer privileged information.
The best way to avoid problems with issues of confidentiality is to talk to your lawyer in hypothetical terms before you speak. That way you can stop yourself from saying something that might incriminate you and ruin your case. Speak to a criminal law attorney to find out more.