What is attorney-client privilege?

On Behalf of | Sep 6, 2023 | Criminal Law |

The concept of attorney-client privilege is one of the most important principles of the law. Attorney-client privilege is one of the most critical things you should understand when you’re facing any kind of criminal charge.

When attorney-client privilege applies, your private conversations with your attorney are protected communications. That means your attorney generally cannot voluntarily reveal anything you’ve confided to them, nor can they usually be forced to disclose any of your confidences in court.

Attorney-client privilege serves a vital purpose in criminal cases

This vital privilege encourages open and honest communication between defendants and their legal representatives. This open dialogue enables defense attorneys to gather all necessary facts in a case, evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a defendant’s position and develop a comprehensive defense strategy. This is true even when a defendant admits to their attorney that they’re guilty of a crime.

This privilege ensures that all criminal defendants receive the best possible legal representation without the fear of self-incrimination. However, like most issues within the law, there are some rules and exceptions that apply. In order for attorney-client privilege to exist:

  • Your conversation must be between you and your attorney. The presence of a third party during your conversation can destroy the privileged nature of the communications.
  • You must reasonably expect that you were communicating in private and that the information you convey will remain that way. If you tell your attorney something over the phone from jail after being notified that the call is recorded, for example, you may have a difficult time claiming the conversation was privileged.
  • You must be communicating with an attorney who is acting in a professional capacity while you are either their client or a potential client. In other words, casually discussing your situation with a friend who is a non-practicing attorney isn’t likely to create privilege.
  • You must not be seeking information or legal guidance in the furtherance of fraud or another crime that’s yet to take place (although discussing past fraud or crimes would be protected).

The best thing you can do when you’re faced with a criminal charge is to invoke your right against self-incrimination and remain silent – until you have the right legal guidance on board. Protecting your attorney-client privilege may end up being key to protecting your future.