Breaking Down Attorney-Client Privilege: What it Means and How it Can Affect Your Case

A person seeking a lawyer wants legal advice about a legal matter. However, they also want to know that what they discuss with the lawyer remains private and confidential. Attorney-client privilege allows that person to openly discuss their situation without fear the information will be used against them.

What Is Privileged Information?

Privilege is the legal right to maintain the privacy and confidentiality of information. The court cannot compel a person to disclose privileged information during discovery or a court hearing or trial. With very few exceptions, what you tell your attorney is protected by the attorney-client privilege.

When attorney-client privilege applies, it protects what you discuss with your criminal defense attorney. Your attorney cannot be compelled to testify against you or disclose what you said during your conversations. Also, you cannot be forced to disclose the information discussed between you and your attorney.

Lawyers need to know all information about a case to provide effective legal representation. If a client holds back information, it could negatively impact the outcome of the case. Therefore, the attorney-client privilege encourages clients to tell their attorneys everything about a case because they understand the information remains confidential.

Privilege applies in all types of criminal cases. You enjoy attorney-client privilege in cases involving DUI, homicide, assault, theft, sex crimes, and drug crimes

Attorney-Client Privilege and Criminal Cases in West Chester, PA

There are no statutes in Pennsylvania that define when attorney-client privilege attaches to a conversation between a lawyer and a client. However, the following requirements must be met before the privilege can apply:

  • The conversation occurred between you and the attorney
  • The purpose of your communication was for you to obtain legal advice from the lawyer about a legal matter
  • The lawyer acted in their professional capacity as an attorney-at-law
  • You expect that the information you provide to the attorney will remain confidential and private

Privilege attaches when there is an attorney-client relationship. Generally, signing a retainer agreement and/or paying the attorney to represent you is evidence of an attorney-client relationship. Likewise, the attorney stating in court or in court documents that he represents you is evidence of an attorney-client relationship.

However, many people worry about what they say during a free consultation with a lawyer. They have not hired the lawyer yet, so does attorney-client privilege apply to a free consultation?

Some sources would argue that privilege does not apply because you have not hired the attorney. However, many sources use the above requirements to claim privilege. As long as you meet the requirements, your conversation should be confidential.

If you are concerned about discussing specific topics, ask the lawyer about attorney-client privilege. The attorney can confirm that your conversation is covered by privilege so that you feel free to discuss all matters during your consultation. 

When Does Attorney-Client Privilege Not Apply in a Criminal Case?

There are situations where attorney-client privilege might not apply in a criminal case. Examples include:

  • The client voluntarily waives attorney-client privilege 
  • The conversation took place in public or in front of other individuals
  • The attorney represented you and another person in the same matter, and you now want to sue the other party
  • You seek legal advice to assist you in committing fraud (information about prior crimes is protected by privilege)
  • The Bureau of Prisons can monitor your conversations with your lawyer if law enforcement officials have reasonable suspicion that you are using attorney-client privilege to plan terrorist attacks

Some information may not be privileged. For example, meeting dates and times with your attorney are not considered privileged information. Likewise, those who attend a meeting might not be privileged. 

What Should I Do After an Arrest in West Chester, PA?

After an arrest, law enforcement officers may want to question you. Do not talk to the police or prosecutors without a criminal defense lawyer present. 

Even if the police officers do not read the Miranda warning, do not answer questions or make a statement. Talking to the police without a lawyer is never in your best interest. In most cases, talking to the police hurts your case. 

Instead, exercise your right to remain silent. Every alleged criminal defendant has the right not to answer questions. 

You also have the right to legal counsel. Take advantage of this right by requesting an attorney. If possible, hire a private criminal defense lawyer to handle your case.

If the judge grants bail, do not contact the alleged victim or anyone involved in your case. Do not discuss the case with anyone other than your lawyer. The best thing you can do for yourself is to follow your attorney’s instructions so your attorney can build the best defense possible against the criminal charges against you.

Contact Our Criminal Defense Law Firm in West Chester, PA

If you are facing criminal charges and need legal help, contact the West Chester, PA criminal defense lawyers at DiCindioLaw, LLC to schedule a free initial consultation.

DiCindio Law, LLC
29 S Walnut St
West Chester, PA 19382
(610) 430-3535