How Attorney-Client Privilege Can Help You in Your Criminal Case
You value your privacy, whether you realize this or not. Many decisions have the underlying motivation of wanting to protect your privacy. You think carefully about what you post publicly online, if anything. Data privacy is a factor in many of your online behaviors, from your choice of software to the cookie settings you choose when you visit websites. People whose assets are not especially valuable set up revocable trusts so that fewer details of their finances will become a matter of public record when their estates go through probate. Some people injured in accidents accept insurance settlements that do not fully cover their accident-related financial losses, because the alternative would be to file a lawsuit, which would mean that the defendant could subpoena all kinds of medical information about the plaintiff which would otherwise be confidential. The right to remain silent is one privacy-related right connected to criminal investigations; another is the right to attorney-client privilege. Here, our Miami criminal defense lawyer explains the circumstances in which your defense attorney must keep your communications private and why you should speak openly with your lawyer about your case during one-on-one conversations.
What Does Attorney-Client Privilege Protect?
Certain categories of professionals can only do their jobs effectively if there is a guarantee of confidentiality, so that the beneficiaries of their services can trust them and speak openly with them. Therefore, health information exchanged between doctors and patients is confidential, as is what people say to clergy members during spiritual counseling sessions. Before there were rules about any of these, there was attorney-client privilege.
The essence of attorney-client privilege is that, when you talk to your lawyer one-on-one, your lawyer does not have the right to reveal the content of your conversations to anyone else. It only applies to lawyers who are representing you in a pending case. Attorney-client privilege does not mean that, if you happen to be seated next to someone with a law degree on a plane ride, you can spill your guts without the possibility of anyone else finding out. If you tell a lawyer that you met on a red eye flight about your extensive criminal history, the lawyer is free to turn it into a novel about a well-traveled career criminal, and during publicity interviews, the lawyer is free to tell the public that the protagonist of the novel is based on you.
Why Is It Important to Speak Openly With Your Lawyer About Your Case
In most situations, you should say as little as possible about your pending criminal case. The Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination means that no one can compel you to say things that would lead to you being charged with or convicted of a crime. If you are testifying in court or giving a deposition, it is against the law to lie if a lawyer asks about your alleged involvement in a crime, but you do have the right to plead the Fifth Amendment. Police must inform defendants that they arrest that anything they say can and will be used against them, but you should assume that this is true in all contexts that are not protected by attorney-client privilege.
Meanwhile, when you are discussing your case one-on-one with your criminal defense lawyer, you should go into as much detail as possible without worrying about incriminating yourself. Your lawyer is not trying to use your words against you; instead, your lawyer is looking for reasonable doubt about your guilt. Even if you tell your lawyer about everything you did on the day of the crime, including the crime itself, your lawyer is comparing it to the prosecution’s evidence and looking for ways to show that the prosecution’s evidence doesn’t prove that you are guilty.
You should think of attorney-client privilege as a brainstorm. One-on-one conversations with your lawyer are an opportunity to float unorthodox interpretations of the prosecution’s evidence, and even different ways that the jury might interpret your statements. Even if you say things that could incriminate other people, your lawyer must keep this information confidential; you and your lawyer have time to decide together whether your only way of defending yourself is to incriminate someone else, or whether another defense strategy would work.
Contact Our Criminal Defense Attorneys
A South Florida criminal defense lawyer can help you examine your criminal case from all angles in the strictest confidence, so that you can develop the best defense strategy. Contact Ratzan & Faccidomo in Miami, Florida for a free, confidential consultation about your case.