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Do Not Hide Information from Your Attorney

Talking on the PhoneYou have been arrested for a crime. You have information that could point to your guilt, and you choose to hide this information from your criminal defense attorney. Should you? In almost all cases, the answer to that question is “no.”

In California, you are protected by attorney-client privilege. California Evidence Code 954 states that you nor your attorney need disclose any information that you have disclosed in confidence. This means that, no matter what you tell your attorney, it cannot be used as evidence against you in court, nor is your attorney required to tell anyone what you have said. There are two exceptions to this rule.

  • If you approach your lawyer for assistance in planning or committing a crime, the conversation that you have with your attorney is not privileged.
  • If your lawyer has reasonable belief that the information you provide is necessary to prevent serious injury or death, your attorney is required to disclose the information.

If you are curious as to who the privilege extends to, it is these people:

  • Client—You are protected by the privilege. You are not required to disclose any conversation that you have with your attorney, nor can you be subpoenaed to do so.
  • Attorney—Outside of the exceptions noted above, your attorney may not be forced to disclose your conversations without your express permission.
  • Third Parties—Anyone who learns of the conversations between you and your attorney through eavesdropping may not be required to disclose the information.

In other words, under typical circumstances, there is no reason that you should withhold information from your attorney during a criminal case. In fact, withholding information can make it difficult for your attorney to represent you to the best of their ability.

The lawyer-client privilege is only one of several that exist in the state of California. In addition to this privilege, citizens are provided psychotherapist-patient and marital communications privileges.

Under the psychotherapist-patient privilege, your therapist may not be forced to disclose any information that you share. There are three exceptions to this privilege: When you choose to make your mental condition an issue in your proceedings, when you seek or use a therapist’s services to aid someone in committing a crime or to escape arrest, or in situations where a patient’s condition poses a danger to yourself or others, or to someone’s property.

Under the spousal privilege, your current or ex-spouse may not be forced to disclose confidential conversations. The privilege does not apply when you enter a marriage simply to prevent the testimony of your new spouse. There are several exceptions to this privilege and they are detailed. Your attorney can advise you when it comes to spousal privilege.

If you have any questions as to whether or not your conversations with your criminal defense attorney are privileged, ask before you speak. Your attorney will tell you whether the information you are about to disclose will be privileged or fall under an exception.

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Stephen Levine, is a Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Defense — an honor achieved by only the top criminal law attorneys in California. Mr. Levine has over 40 years of experience in criminal defense and family law serving Southern California, and is a highly regarded Super Lawyer as well as AV Rated attorney.