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Posted on January 20, 2022 in Criminal Defense

Breaking Down Attorney-Client Privilege: What it Means and How it Can Affect Your Case

In this blog, criminal defense lawyer Craig Orent breaks down attorney-client privilege, what it means, and how it can affect your case. In Arizona, attorney-client confidentiality and attorney-client privilege are related concepts. People use these terms interchangeably.

There are actually important differences between confidentiality and privilege that you should understand. While attorney-client privilege is technically a rule of evidence, attorney-client confidentiality is actually an ethical rule that all attorneys must follow.

If you are facing criminal charges, never discuss your case with anyone besides your attorney. Family members and friends are all potential witnesses that could be forced to testify against you, and prosecutors can seize your text messages as evidence. Only communications with your lawyer are protected by confidentiality and privilege.

Attorney-Client Privilege Under the Arizona Statutes

Arizona Statute 13-4062 is one of the main laws protecting attorney-client privilege in Arizona. Under this statute, no attorney can be forced to testify in court about any communications between the attorney and their client made in the course of the representation.

Attorney-client work product also has similar protections under the law. Generally speaking, the work product of an attorney made while representing a client is inadmissible in court.

There are specific limitations to attorney-client privilege. The easiest way to think about it is to look at the language “in the course of the representation” from ARS 13-4062. Things that are not related to the defense of a client against criminal charges are not protected.

Some examples of exceptions to the privilege include:

  • If the client tried to use the attorney to help them commit a crime
  • If the client threatened to harm themselves or others
  • If the client sued the attorney for malpractice

In these situations, certain communications would not be privileged and the attorney could be forced to testify about them.

Attorney-Client Confidentiality as an Ethics Rule in Phoenix Arizona

Attorney-client privilege is a rule of evidence protecting privileged materials and communications from use in court. Attorney-client confidentiality is much broader.

Confidentiality is an ethical rule that lawyers must follow. If they don’t, they risk losing their law license or facing other sanctions with the State Bar and Arizona Supreme Court.

Under the Arizona Rules of Professional Conduct, a lawyer cannot reveal any information relating to the representation of a client to a third party. Lawyers also must take reasonable steps to prevent inadvertent disclosure of confidential information.

These measures include locking their office and having good cybersecurity practices. Confidentiality is a right belonging to the client, so only the client can waive confidentiality.

A good lawyer takes their ethical duty of confidentiality extremely seriously. In general, criminal defense lawyers should presume something is confidential unless a law expressly says otherwise.

Under the law, there are a few narrow exceptions to confidentiality, similar to the exceptions to privilege. For instance, a lawyer is required to report if a client has threatened to harm or murder someone. A lawyer may also report a crime or fraud if the client tried to use the lawyer in furtherance.

Phoenix criminal defense attorney Craig Orent takes both privilege and confidentiality extremely seriously. At Orent Law Offices, we strive to provide the highest level of discretion and client confidence possible.

Contact the Criminal Defense Lawyers at Orent Law Offices In Phoenix To Get Legal Assistance Today

For more information, contact the criminal defense attorney Craig Orent. Give us a call at (480) 656-7301 or visit our law office at 11811 N Tatum Blvd UNIT 3031, Phoenix, AZ 85028. We offer a free case evaluation, so get the help you deserve today.

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