Anyone watching a crime drama on television has likely observed the legal concept of attorney client privilege. People often take this ability to speak frankly with legal counsel for granted, until the day comes that they are faced with an unfortunate situation. If you find yourself wondering how honest and forthright you can safely be with your attorney, read on to learn more about speaking confidentially with your attorney and how your speech is protected.
What does this privilege cover?
Any and all communication with your attorney falls under this protection, whether it be a phone conversation, an email or fax, a hand signal or face to face contact. Any information (with few exceptions) is protected by law, and that attorney cannot be compelled by any court or judge to reveal said information.
Why is this a good thing?
It's simple; open communication between a client and an attorney provides clients with a better defense. Fair and comprehensive representation in court in all matters depends on this concept. You need only speak to an attorney to gain this protection. No money needs to change hands, and no legal representation contract needs be signed. This powerful privilege never expires and covers all past acts.
There are exceptions to be aware of, however.
You can count on this communication protection in most all instances, except for the following:
Third Party. While it may seem intuitive to bring a friend or family member with you to the attorney meeting, doing so puts the attorney client privilege at risk. Any time your communications are overheard by a third party, the utterances are no longer protected. Even accidental third party exposure can jeopardize the communications. For example, if you meet with your attorney in a crowded restaurant booth with people all around who may hear you, it may not be protected. In those cases, if your conversations were overhead, your attorney could be compelled to reveal the information.
Intent. Casual conversations with people who just happen to be lawyers are not considered confidential. For the conversation to be covered under the privilege, you must fully intend to be seeking legal advice at the time.
Future Bad Acts. You cannot make threats to commit crimes and expect that information to be held in confidence by the attorney. In fact, attorneys are "officers of the court" and are compelled to report the potential for any wrongdoing to the authorities. Plans to cover up potential bad acts are also exempt from attorney client privilege. It is permissible to pose hypothetical questions and scenarios, however.
For more information, contact Eric J. Engan Attorney At Law or a similar firm.