Anyone looking to hire a defense lawyer would be wise to take advantage of a free consultation with an attorney to help find the best lawyer for his or her case.
However, if you are accused of a crime, you may be hesitant to discuss your case with an attorney during the initial consultation. After all, if you decide to hire a different lawyer, any other attorneys you have consulted will have information about your case.
Understanding Your Protections Under the Constitution
Can that information be used against you, or does attorney/client privilege extend to attorneys you spoke with during consultations? And exactly how far does attorney/client privilege extend?
These questions were recently asked by a potential client who was concerned about hiring an attorney and possibly implicating himself and his friends in a crime while discussing his case.
Rest assured, what you say to an attorney during a consultation is privileged information. Unless you are a specific and immediate threat to yourself or others, the attorney cannot reveal anything you have said to law enforcement. Even in that highly unlikely scenario, the attorney can provide only limited information about the specific threat and cannot reveal anything about your current case.
If a lawyer was able to reveal information you provided in a consultation, the justice system would collapse. Let's say that you go to a free consultation with Attorney A. You tell him all about your case and admit guilt in certain aspects of the crime with which you are charged. However, at the end of the consultation you do not feel comfortable with Attorney A, so you decide to continue looking for a defense lawyer to represent you.
You decide to hire Attorney B. Now, Attorney A has your confession of guilt. If this information were not protected by attorney client privilege, he or she could be ordered to testify against you, clearly violating your right to find effective assistance of counsel.
It is important to remember, however, that their are limitations to attorney/client privilege. Typically, you waive confidentiality if you reveal the protected information to anyone else. If you have a third party in the room with you when you are discussing your case with the lawyer, that information is likely not privileged information.
If you discuss your case with your jailer, your cell mate, your neighbor, or your co-worker, you have likely jeopardized your case and waived confidentiality. This is why attorneys so often urge current and prospective clients not to discuss their cases with anyone--not police, not investigative agencies, not friends, not reporters. No one except their attorneys.
To find out how local attorneys have addressed the question of lawyer confidentiality, visit the Oklahoma Criminal Defense website to submit a confidential case review form.