Communicating With Your Attorney

Two Ways You Can Lose The Attorney-Client Privilege

One inalienable right defendants have is the ability to speak freely to their attorneys. Called attorney-client privilege, anything a defendant says to his or her lawyer while the person is acting as the defendant's criminal defense attorney is considered privileged information, and the substance of the conversation between the two cannot be revealed to outside parties. However, there are certain circumstances when the attorney-client privilege can be voided. Here are two times when this privilege is invalidated.

Scenario #1: The Conversation is Overheard by Others

Possibly one of the easiest and most common ways people lose attorney-client privilege is by allowing others to overhear the conversation between them and their lawyers. For instance, if you are discussing the case in a restaurant and someone at a neighboring table hears what you say to your attorney, the privilege you would normally enjoy would be invalidated. Both your attorney and the person who overheard what you said could be called to testify about your statements.

When discussing the case with your attorney, you have a duty to ensure it's in a relatively private place or in an area where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy. If you're in jail, for instance, you would need to ensure you and your attorney meet in a private area where other inmates couldn't hear your conversation.

Along this same vein, you can also invalidate your attorney-client privilege if you tell an unprivileged party about your conversation with the lawyer. For instance, in one California case, a man kidnapped a person. During the kidnapping, the man called his attorney who informed him about the penalty for kidnapping. After receiving this information, the man killed the hostage. The prosecutor successfully argued that the man waived his attorney-client privilege because he told a friend that he had contacted an attorney for advice before killing the hostage. The judge in the case ruled the attorney could be compelled to testify against his client.

During the Commission of a Crime

Another thing that could cancel your attorney-client privilege is if you consult with an attorney prior to or during the commission of a crime. The law in the majority of states requires attorneys to divulge information to the appropriate authorities if it will prevent death or injury to another person.

For instance, in the case of Shorter v. State of Mississippi, an attorney called the police after his client notified him that he planned to kill his wife's lover. Because the communication with the attorney occurred prior to the commission of the crime, the attorney was required to report what was said to the police and his statements were used in court.

There are several other ways you can invalidate the attorney-client privilege. Contact a criminal defense attorney, such as Kassel & Kassel A Group of Independent Law Offices to discuss attorney-client privilege and ways you can protect yourself.