People who come into our office for the first time, come in to discuss intensely private matters. Sometimes, they are getting divorced. Sometimes they are under investigation. Our clients need to feel free to tell us everything. Maybe they think their spouse is being unfaithful, or maybe they are being unfaithful. They might have committed a crime or witnessed a crime they might be suspected of committing. Regardless of circumstances their communications are covered by the attorney/client privilege.
When someone comes into speak with an attorney they might not be sure if they can speak freely because they do not want what they say to be used against them. Some worry that if they haven’t paid the lawyer the lawyer doesn’t have to keep their secrets. Others worry that an opposing party might hire the lawyer if they choose to go in a different direction. However, it’s important to understand that the attorney/client privilege is in force the moment you call an attorney and you (the client) are the only one who can waive the privilege. No matter what you are communicating (with some exceptions), if you’ve hurt someone, if you’ve been unfaithful, the attorney cannot share that communication without your permission.
What is the Attorney/Client Privilege?
The attorney/client privilege covers any confidential communication between someone seeking or retaining legal services and the attorney or their staff. The attorney/client privilege starts even before you come to the office. It begins the moment you pick up the phone and call a lawyer’s office. The privilege is the strongest privilege in our legal system. This means that a client can tell their lawyer things that they cannot tell their wife, their priest or their doctor. The Attorney/Client privilege is ironclad and cannot be breached without your specific permission.
For example, if someone is accused of domestic violence they may need someone to talk to about what to do next regarding their marriage, their children, or a potential criminal case. Anyone they confide in, their mother, their father, their children could be subpoenaed by the State and forced to answer questions about they were told. A lawyer, however, can keep your secrets and give you professional advice about what to do next.
When Does the Attorney/Client Privilege Not Apply?
As with anything legal there are always going to be exceptions. There are two main exceptions. The first is real (meaning its something you have to watch out for) the second happens in the movies (and never at The Locke Law Group). First, the Attorney/Client privilege does not apply to communications that are being listened in on by a third party and the person making the communication knows the third party is listening. So, calls from jail which are recorded by the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office are not protected by Attorney/Client privilege. At The Locke Law Group we take this so seriously that we actually go to the jail to meet our clients and visit them in person. We do not trust the video conferencing that some attorneys use to talk to their clients. If, however, the FBI has tapped your phone and you make a call to your lawyer the FBI Agent listening must stop listening once it is clear you are seeking legal advice.
The second, happens in the movies, and rarely happens in real life (but it’s fun to discuss). Have you ever watched gangster movies where a gang leader takes his main guy to his lawyer’s office and the lawyer leaves so the gang leader and his main guy can talk business? The movies imply they do this because the FBI won’t tap the lawyer’s office because of the Attorney/Client privilege. Except they will. The privilege does not apply if you are engaged in criminal activity and are using your lawyer to commit new crime. This is called the crime-fraud exception to the attorney/client privilege. So, you can tell your attorney about crime but you cannot plan a crime with your attorney.
Why Does the Attorney/Client Privilege exist?
The reason the attorney/client privilege exists is because our founding fathers recognized that when you are facing the power of the State or the Federal Government there needs to be a person you can confide in. The Federal and State governments are the most powerful man made forces on earth, so it makes sense that you should have someone you can tell the truth to, who can know the truth so they can be your counselor and your advocate.
At The Locke Law Group we take pride in being the kind of law firm in which people can confide. We have kept all kinds of secrets on behalf of our clients. And while keeping those secrets we have been their most effective advocates and counselors. If you need to confide in an attorney give us a call at (210) 361-3113 today.