When you are charged with a crime and need to talk to someone about it, you should always choose an attorney because of the “attorney-client privilege.” If you speak to someone who is not an attorney, there is nothing that prevents that person from telling anyone what you said: they could tell friends, tell your family, or even tell police. To fully protect yourself, you should only speak with an attorney who is ethically prevented from telling anyone what you tell them.
What is the Attorney-Client Privilege?
The Attorney-Client Privilege is a legal rule that allows an attorney to maintain confidentiality of anything their client tells them. The privilege belongs to the client, so even if they move away or change attorneys, it stays with them; only clients can waive the privilege by talking about what happened during legal representation. For example, if you have ever said “I committed a crime in the past,” the attorney cannot tell anyone–including law enforcement, prosecutors, or the judge.
Why Does It Matter?
The Attorney-Client Privilege is a fundamental legal right that ensures people can speak freely with their attorney without worrying about what they say. It encourages clients to seek out help and advice when facing difficult situations, such as being arrested or charged with a crime. When a person knows their conversations are confidential with their attorney, they can freely describe the circumstances and explain their side of the story without fear of prosecution or getting into trouble. The Attorney-Client privilege also protects the relationship between an individual and their lawyer, ensuring that they have access to someone who understands their position and will work for their best interests in court when facing criminal charges.
When Attorney-Client Privilege Doesn’t Apply
Although it is important for a client and lawyer to have a strong relationship, the Attorney-Client Privilege does not apply to everything a person tells their attorney. For instance, if a client tells their attorney that they will commit a crime that will hurt someone, the attorney has an ethical duty to report this to law enforcement if they believe their client will actually commit the crime. An attorney is also prevented from assisting in the coverup of a crime and cannot advise a client on how to get away with a crime.
If you are charged with a crime, the first person you should call should be an attorney who can help you with the next critical steps.