Speaking Freely: What To Know About Attorney Client Privilege

Most people have heard that their communications with their attorneys are confidential. When events lead you to conversing with an attorney, you may begin to ask yourself exactly how private are your conversations and what you can safely say to your attorney.

Attorney Client Privilege

Simply put, nearly everything you say, write, email, demonstrate and convey in any manner to an attorney is considered private. No court or judge can compel that attorney to reveal those communications with anyone, at any time, with few exceptions.

The impetus for this important concept is clear: without open and honest communication between an attorney and a client, a fair and comprehensive defense is impossible. This powerful protections begins with your first communication and extends through the end of time. This privilege is in effect even if you never retain or pay the lawyer a cent, and moreover, it covers all past acts committed as well.

Exceptions to the Privilege

While you can count on this privilege in most cases, be aware the following situations where the attorney client privilege will not cover your communications.

1. Third Party Presence: Meeting with an attorney can be stressful, whether you are seeking a divorce or have been charged with a serious crime. While it may make you feel better to have a trusted friend or family member accompany you to your lawyers meeting, you may want to reconsider. Any communications that take place in the presence of a third party (except other legal professionals, such as a paralegal or stenographer) are not considered privileged. To go further, conversations held in public places, like a restaurant, may not be considered privileged if there is an opportunity to be overheard. In both cases, third parties could be called to testify about any overheard conversations in those situations.

2. Intentions: Lawyers can be intelligent and interesting people, so it may be fun to discuss legal matters in a social situation with an attorney. You must understand, however, that you must be intentionally seeking legal advice from that attorney for the communication to be considered private.

3. Future Acts: Making threats about intentions to commit a future crime are exempt, and attorneys are required to report these threats to the authorities. Communicating plans to carry out a criminal act as well plans to cover up any future acts are also exempt. You can, however, ask advice on hypothetical situations without risking the loss of the attorney client privilege.

It's always prudent to check with your lawyer before you speak rather than risk negating the privilege. Contact an attorney like LaCross & Murphy, PLLC for more information about this powerful legal concept.