What Is (and Isn’t) Covered by Attorney-Client Privilege?
We’ve all heard about attorney-client privilege, whether from the movies or real-life experience. But what does attorney-client privilege actually cover? And perhaps more importantly, what doesn’t it cover? Keep reading to find out.
What Is Attorney-Client Privilege?
Attorney-client privilege is a legal right that ensures that any communications between a client and their attorney are kept private and secret. This privilege is especially relevant in cases of criminal charges and can be used to refute demands for testimony or recovery.
What Qualifies as an Attorney-Client Relationship?
It’s important to understand that while attorney-client privilege is a legitimate right, it only applies to those in an attorney-client relationship. If the relationship is not firmly established, confidentiality may not hold.
Essentially, you’ll need to ensure that you have at least one of the following types of agreements:
- A fee contract
- An engagement letter
- An oral agreement
It’s also possible to establish an attorney-client relationship by having the attorney represent you in court, draft legal documents for you or file pleadings on your behalf.
What’s Covered by Attorney-Client Privilege?
The biggest thing covered by the attorney-client privilege is communication. Any communication between an attorney and his client is kept private unless the client decides to waive this privilege. There are exemptions to the privilege, but generally speaking, almost anything that is said in confidence to an attorney is covered.
The same is true for any communication conveyed electronically, but only if the message is shared between just the attorney and the client. If another person is cc’d on an email, that information is not protected by the attorney-client privilege.
What’s Not Covered by Attorney-Client Privilege?
Communication is protected by attorney-client privilege, but facts are not. While you can’t be forced to testify about what you told your attorney about a certain event, you can be forced to testify about the actual event.
Physical objects are also not covered by the attorney-client privilege. So if you think you can hide the evidence with an attorney and that it will be protected, that belief is incorrect.
Are There Other Exceptions to Attorney-Client Privilege?
There are other situations that can nullify or be exceptions to attorney-client privilege. Some of the more common ones include:
The Death of a Client
Most often, attorney-client privilege holds even after the death of a client. But in cases where an heir or legatee files litigation, the privilege may be waived.
Furtherance of a Crime
If the client plans to cover up or further a crime or fraud, the attorney-client privilege does not apply. Any communications that do so will not be considered private.
In some states, an attorney who reasonably suspects that a client is likely to commit a violent criminal act may disclose information that the attorney-client privilege would otherwise protect.
Learn More About Attorney-Client Privilege
As you might imagine, these exceptions leave room for some gray areas within the attorney-client privilege. If you have specific questions about this area of law, contact Gucciardo Family Law. We will be happy to inform you further.
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