We take our cases very seriously, and we take your privacy seriously as well. Attorney-client privilege exists to help us keep your information confidential before, during, and after your case. It’s about respecting our clients.
There are many facets of attorney-client privilege including rules set in place to protect us and to protect you — our clients. Today, we’re sharing seven things you need to know about attorney-client privilege.
1. Your information is protected even before an official relationship is established.
When you contact us to set an appointment, we may ask you for information about your case. After our meeting, you are entitled to ask for this information back if you decide that we are not a good fit for you. If this is what you choose to do, we will not share what we learned with others.
2. The privilege applies when you speak to a lawyer to seek legal advice.
Attorney-client privilege would NOT apply if you casually mentioned a scenario to your friend who is a lawyer. It applies when you communicate a lawyer to get advice on what you should do. The communication would include all emails, phone calls, etc. When the expectation is that the information is to remain secret, that’s a good indication that the privilege exists.
3. The attorney cannot repeat secrets to anyone outside of the legal team.
The duty of confidentiality applies to other attorneys on the firm. That means anyone who is not part of your legal team, even though they work for the law office, will not have access to the information. The privilege stays in effect after the attorney-client relationship ends, and even after the client dies. Information can only be shared if the attorney gets written consent.
4. If a third person is present during your conversations, that person is not bound by attorney-client privilege.
Similarly, if you speak to your lawyer in public where your conversation is overheard, the person who overheard can testify in court about what they heard. But, the attorney is still required to keep it confidential. That being said, please choose a location that will give you the most privacy.
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5. Attorney-client privilege protects discussions of past behaviors, but not future intent.
If you meet with an attorney and discuss your past actions like stealing a TV or lying on your tax returns, that most likely is covered by the attorney-client privilege. However, if your discussions ask for advice on how to embezzle money or that you are a landlord and you want to evict a tenant illegally, the privilege does NOT apply. This is referred to as the crime-fraud exception. In most states, the attorney has a duty to disclose information learned from a client that will prevent death or severe injury.
6. Some situations call for mandatory disclosure.
Now that we mentioned that some information could be disclosed, what does that look like? The attorney can (and has a duty) to report the intention of a crime. But, in some situations where the crime-fraud exception may or may not apply, there is an ethical responsibility to disclose information. Here are a few scenarios:
- Perjury. If the attorney knows that a witness is about to give, or has given, perjured testimony (lying under oath), he must inform the court. But, this may not apply if the witness is his client.
- Crucial evidence. If the attorney is made aware of a critical piece of evidence by the client, the attorney may have to turn it over, even if it damages their case.
- Missing person. If the attorney is told the location of a missing witness or victim whose life is in danger, the attorney may have to disclose it.
- Threats. If the client discusses threats to harm someone (specifically a witness or the judge), the lawyer may have to report the threat.
7. Attorney-client privilege can vary from state to state.
Lastly, when seeking an attorney, ask them about attorney-client privilege in your state. The laws can vary based on the federal court as well. Make sure they will keep your information as secret as they can. The attorney can go over specific laws and rules that apply to your case and help you get what you deserve.
You deserve compensation. Let our lawyers help. Contact Bart Durham today to see if you have a case.