You may already know that your attorney has the legal duty to keep your communication with him or her confidential. Attorney-client privilege combines with that duty of confidentiality to keep your communications private, even when the state would prefer that they weren't. However, confidentiality is a fragile thing - and you can accidentally destroy it, which can be disastrous in any legal proceeding.
You have to remember that unless something is said to your attorney in private, it isn't confidential. That means that whatever you say in public can (and probably will) end up being used in court against you, and your attorney won't be able to stop it. With that in mind, you have to remember several rules when speaking with your attorney, if you expect your conversations to stay private.
1.) Never have the conversation in a public place, where others can hear you.
In general, it's always best to meet with your attorney in an office or closed room, away from others. That way, you don't have to worry about breaching confidentiality. However, circumstances may exist that make it impossible for you to follow this rule absolutely. When that happens, you have to take steps to keep your conversation from being overheard.
For example, if you have a hurried conversation with your attorney on the courthouse steps, how you have that conversation may be important if its confidentiality comes into question. If you are shouting at your attorney so loudly that the court bailiff overhears your words as he is walking back from lunch, a judge could rule that you destroyed the confidential nature of your communications with your attorney by shouting. That means that everything the bailiff overheard would be admissible in court, no matter how damaging to your case.
However, if you and your attorney step behind a column and are whispering to each other, you are clearly trying to preserve your privacy. The fact that the bailiff snuck up behind the column in order to try to hear what you were saying wouldn't likely damage the confidential nature of your conversation.
2.) Never invite someone along with you to the meeting with your attorney.
If there's another person with you when you meet with your attorney (other than your spouse), the conversation isn't confidential. Because the conversation lacks confidentiality, it's also not privileged. That means that your attorney could even be forced to testify in court about what you said during the meeting.
3,) Never tell someone else what you discussed with your attorney.
Never talk to anyone else about your case and say something like, "I told my attorney…," and then proceed to discuss what was said in confidence. If you tell other people what you and your attorney discussed, you lose all expectations that the conversation will remain confidential.
4.) Never have a conversation over a jailhouse or prison phone.
Jails can record your conversations with your attorney. While individual courts may vary on rulings, many have said that prisoners have no expectation of privacy when they're on the phone at a jail or prison. To be safe, don't discuss anything confidential with your attorney over the phone.
5.) Never talk to your attorney about future misdeeds that you intend to commit.
You can tell your attorney all your past misdeeds, but you can't ask his or her advice about future ones. For example, you can tell your attorney all about the assets that you hid from your first spouse during your divorce, but you can't ask your attorney to help you hide assets during your second divorce. Because you are discussing how to commit fraud, you would destroy your confidentiality. Your attorney could be called to testify against you in court if someone finds out.
In other situations, your attorney is actually required to tell authorities what you are planning to do. If you tell your attorney that you plan on physically hurting someone, your attorney has to report your threats in order to uphold the law.
When you hire an attorney, you should always discuss the issue of confidentiality. As always, remember to watch what you say - and where you say it - in order to best protect yourself and preserve your rights! Contact a lawyer in your area, such as Malcolm Stewart Douglas Atty, if you have further questions.
When I was younger, I had a hard time following the rules. I got in with a bad group of friends, and I found myself in juvenile detention more than a few times. When I was sixteen, a teacher sat me down and explained where my life was leading. That teacher was the first person that believed in me, and I decided not to let him down. That day, I decided to change my life, and I did. Because of his sound advice, I was able to finish high school, get into a great college, and become a criminal attorney. I understand the uphill battle that troubled youth face, and I want to use this website to teach other people what they need to do to turn things around.