Featured News 2016 How the Attorney-Client Privilege Works

How the Attorney-Client Privilege Works

When people are accused of crimes, they need someone they can trust to talk to. Fortunately, when criminal defendants confide in their attorneys, those communications are sacred due to the "attorney-client" privilege.

Under the attorney-client privilege rule, whatever a client says to their attorney is kept confidential. This means that attorneys cannot divulge their clients' secrets, confessions, or admissions, nor can others force attorneys to give up this information.

The attorney-client privilege was created so clients could feel safe sharing information with their attorneys about the details of their case without having to fear the consequences. This open communication allows attorneys to effectively represent their clients, and it is vital.

When does the attorney-client privilege apply?

The attorney-client privilege generally applies to the following situations:

  • When a prospective client communicates with an attorney
  • When an actual client communicates with a lawyer
  • When the attorney is acting in a professional capacity (not as a friend)
  • When the client intended the communication with the attorney to be held in confidence

If the client reasonably expected their communications to be private with the attorney, whether it was written or oral, the lawyer cannot reveal that information to someone else.

For instance, if an attorney was told something by a client in confidence, the lawyer cannot go and share that information with someone outside their legal team without first obtaining the client's permission.

In the above example, the client has the power to forfeit the privilege, but the attorney does not. How long does the attorney-client privilege last? It continues even after the attorney-relationship ends, and after the client passes away.

An attorney can only divulge a client's secrets without permission under limited circumstances, so it's wise to ask about this. Since the attorney-client privilege varies from state to state, we encourage you to ask any attorneys that you speak to about the attorney-client privilege before discussing your case.

If you are looking for a criminal defense attorney in your area, scroll through our directory to find one near you.

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