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What is the attorney-client privilege?

| Mar 16, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

When facing criminal charges in Washington state, the accused may rely heavily on a criminal defense attorney for assistance. Some defendants may worry about how open and honest they could be with their counsel. Under the attorney-client privilege, an attorney keeps all discussions with a client confidential, barring a few exceptions.

How the attorney-client privilege works

The attorney-client privilege affords legal protections to discussions and communications between a lawyer and a client. Unless a client agrees to disclosure, attorneys cannot reveal any information. An attorney could even face disciplinary measures for violating the attorney-client privilege. The fallout might even involve disbarment, depending on the situation.

Some may wonder why the law allows for an attorney-client privilege. In general, the rule lets clients discuss matters openly, honestly, and without fear of third parties learning the private information. That said, there are limitations to how far the protections afforded by the attorney-client privilege go.

Limitations on the attorney-client privilege

Washington state law provides some exceptions to the confidentiality of the attorney-client privilege. Not surprisingly, an attorney could reveal private information to prevent bodily harm or death or when the client intends to commit a crime. Other situations exist where an attorney may reveal the information, such as when someone may suffer severe financial damage from the client’s behavior. In general, the statute guiding exceptions to the attorney-client privilege remains somewhat narrow.

Persons with questions about the attorney-client privilege may find it wise to direct them to the lawyer representing them. An attorney may be able to better explain how the statute works and when it does and does not apply. Besides explaining state statutes, a criminal defense attorney could provide a client with representation.