Important factors surrounding privilege
There are three fundamental principles concerning the rights of the individual in American Jurisprudence that go hand in hand. The first one is concerning the rights of the individual to be presumed innocent of a crime until they are declared guilty in a court of law.
In some countries, the police have the authority to place you in jail almost indefinitely if they want to, but the 6th Amendment, guaranteeing the rights to a speedy trial means that in most cases a prosecutor has to charge you with 72 hours or let you go. So it’s out of the hands of the police what to do with you beyond a certain point.
The second principle is that you have the right to be represented by an attorney, which you’ve heard a thousand times on TV when police arrest suspects and read them their Miranda Rights.
The third principle, which ties into your right to have an attorney vigorously defend your presumption of innocence (even if you are flat out guilty) is confidentiality between you and your attorney.
Say you were arrested for bringing 10 kilos of cocaine across the Mexican border. You then contact an attorney who visits you in jail. You confess to the attorney, “yes, I’m guilty but there were good reasons why I did it, the attorney could say to you, sorry, I only accept innocent clients, or I don’t want to defend you,” but the attorney would be bound by attorney-client and would have to refuse if called into court by the District Attorney representing the people.
Guilty or innocent, a drug lawyer or drug attorney has to go into the trial from inception to completion, presuming your innocence. The fact that the drug lawyer or drug attorney may represent have the gang members and drug cartels in the city have nothing to do with it.
Exceptions to privilege
There are exceptions to the client-attorney privilege of course. One of them concerns using an attorney to help cover up a crime. For example, if you ask an attorney how I launder the $500,000 I made on my first run on the Mexican Border, the attorney’s advice to you is not privileged. If something happens in another country like Germany, be prepared to call the local attorney in Germany.
If you meet the attorney at a restaurant or a pool hall, your conversation is also not privileged because the courts have held that anyplace where your conversation can be overheard by others does not give you an expectation of privacy.
And this includes, in certain situations, talking to your attorney over the telephone at the jail, where police departments have an obligation to monitor conversations to keep order and discipline.
Want to have your best friend along with you when you meet the lawyer? Sorry, but a group conversation is no longer privileged. At the very least, your friend could be called to testify.
The same goes for post attorney interviews. Bragging to your friends about how your attorney may get you off Scott-free will likely bring them into court to testify.
The bottom line is, silence is golden. Hold any conversations privately and discretely with your lawyers. Then let him or her do the work of defending you.