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Attorney-Client Privilege Explained

Deciding to hire a criminal defense attorney can be stressful, especially if you are concerned about what you can actually discuss about charges. For many people who are facing criminal charges, there is a fear that the attorney they hire will end up “snitching” on them to the prosecution team or judge. These concerns are not necessarily misplaced, which is why there is a legal concept to address such issues. In this blog, we explain what attorney-client privilege is.

What Is Attorney-Client Privilege?

Attorney-client privilege means any information you disclose to your lawyer that is relevant to your case is confidential and is also subject to privilege. Under this concept, your attorney cannot reveal or be compelled to reveal confidential information about your case to third parties. Though subject to certain exceptions, your lawyer can’t testify or be compelled to testify about things they discussed with you in the context of your attorney-client relationship.

This concept stays intact even after the direct attorney-client relationship ends. This protection is meant to encourage “full and frank” disclosures between a client and their lawyer and helps your attorney give you beneficial legal advice.

Attorney-client privilege applies whenever a client or potential client consults with a lawyer to get legal advice. The client also needs to have the intention to communicate with the lawyer in confidence for attorney–client privilege to apply.

Exceptions to Attorney-Client Privilege

Attorney-client privilege will protect a clients’ confidentiality rights for most communications, however, there are exceptions to this privilege, such as:

  • Presence of a Third Party: Communications between you and your attorney that are made in front of a third party are not protected by attorney-client privilege. This also applies if you talk about matters with your lawyer in a public setting where you can be overheard.
  • Waiver of the Privilege: Disclosing confidential information that you have discussed with your attorney to another party waives your right to attorney-client privilege.
  • The Crime-Fraud Exception: This exception applies when a client intends to commit or cover up a fraud or a crime. The lawyer’s knowledge of the fraud is irrelevant, what matters is when it comes to the crime-fraud exception is the intent of the client. Attorneys also have the ethical obligation to disclose their client’s intent to carry out a crime that might cause death or serious injury to another person.

However, in most circumstances, an attorney will not attempt to turn you into law enforcement authorities or try to undermine your case.

If you need a criminal defense attorney to assist with your case, you should immediately consult with our legal team. Call (312) 436-0638, or contact our Chicago criminal defense attorney to discuss your case today.