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What does Client and Attorney Privilege Mean?

A stack of papers has the words attorney client privilege on the top page.How much should you tell your lawyer?

The fifth amendment protects U.S. citizens from incriminating themselves, but how does that work with your attorney. We get this question all the time. Many people have heard about attorney confidentiality, or criminal attorney-client privilege, but they aren’t sure how that will impact their case. Can their attorney be forced to give testimony during a court case?

This article will focus on attorney-client privilege and what that means for your criminal case

What is Attorney-Client Privilege?

Let’s start with a definition: what is attorney-client privilege? This legal term means that anything that you discuss with your attorney that relates to your case is confidential, so they cannot talk about it. Additionally, your discussions are also subject to privilege, meaning they cannot be forced to disclose any information you offer. There are only a few exceptions (which we will get to later in the article), which would ever allow your attorney to voluntarily or involuntarily communicate about information you relate about your case. 

This concept remains in place even if your status as attorney and client ends. This law is important because your openness with your lawyer helps them give you effective and capable representation and console during the proceedings. 

When Qualifies as Attorney-Client Privilege and When Does it Begin?

Typically, attorney-client privileges begin or apply when a person, no matter if they are a current or possible future client, begins speaking with an attorney. The individual must be communicating with the attorney for legal advice with the lawyer acting in their official capacity. The lawyer cannot just be offering advice or acting as a friend. Lastly, the individual must have meant the information to be private. 

You can use the attorney-client privilege even before securing an attorney to officially represent you. During initial consultations, make sure your attorney-client privilege applies before you begin discussing your case, just to make sure they understand the situation. 

Exceptions to the Attorney-Client Privilege Law

Let’s check in on the exceptions to the attorney-client privilege:

  • Any Third Party - If there are any third parties not covered by the privilege who are present during a conversation, then the communication will not be covered. If you bring a friend or anyone else is present, your conversation is not official. Additionally, conversations held in public places could lead to a bystander overhearing - what they hear they could legally disclose. 
  • Privilege Being Waived - The client has the option to waive their right to the privilege. 
  • Intention to Commit Fraud or Another Crime - This exception comes up when a client wants to cover up a past crime or has the intention to commit a new crime. The important aspect of the crime-fraud exception is the client’s intent. This exception will not go into effect if the client just asks questions about legal consequences in a hypothetical frame. The greater the severity of the intended crime, the greater the ethitical obligation is for the lawyer to disclose their client’s intentions. 

Get Protected Legal Representation You Can Trust 

The attorney-client privilege is an important aspect of their legal relationship. Make sure to openly discuss with your lawyer what conversations will have protections. The legal experts at Aldrich Legal Services have been practicing law for more than 21 years. Trust us to help you navigate the legal process to ensure your rights are protected and you get the best outcome possible.

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