The reason that this total honesty is necessary is because it is only with all the information at hand can a lawyer act effectively on your behalf. And the United States recognizes and respects that ability to be honest, with a legal protection known as Attorney-Client privilege. However, there is often some misperception about how this works, so let’s take a closer look at this.
Everything Related Is Protected
Attorney-client privilege is, in the simplest possible terms, a kind of “blanket legal protection” that states that anything you say to a lawyer about the case you are involved in together is confidential, and is strictly between you and your lawyer. Whatever you say to your lawyer cannot be used in a court of law as evidence, nor can those communications be spied on and used by the opposing legal team as evidence. That would mean that the opposing legal team has actually broken the law themselves by ignoring attorney-client privilege.
What is important to note here, however, is that attorney-client privilege, while “powerful,” is designed to protect you for the current case you are engaged in. It means that everything you discuss with your lawyer that is related to the case you are a client for is protected. This does not extend to anything else, and there are major exceptions where attorney-client privilege does not exist.
Committing New Crimes/Violations
For example, if someone is involved in a hit-and-run accident, and goes to court for that, the client may then confess to the lawyer that the hit-and-run may actually have been deliberate, but this information is still protected under attorney-client privilege. However, if that same client is planning to murder his wife for inheritance money, then tells the lawyer of the plan, commits the crime, and later tells the lawyer where the body has been disposed of, and the plan to tell the police that wife has gone missing, this is not protected by attorney-client privilege at all. The lawyer is free to inform the police of this new crime.
In the same way, if an attorney acts on behalf of a client in ways that go beyond the scope of the case, such as helping the client above to get rid of the body, and then lie to the police about it, there’s no protection there. Once a lawyer cooperates with a client to commit crimes or violations, attorney-client privilege ceases to be valid legal protection. Always remember, this legal confidentiality is only respected with regards to the specific case, not anything else..