If you have been or could be charged with a crime, you may wonder whom can you talk to and what you can say, and in what form, without fear of incrimination. This article is a brief rundown of the particulars involving privileged communication.
1. Communication with people in certain capacities is considered privileged.
In general, conversation with these persons is protected from disclosure:
- Your attorney,
- Your spouse,
- A priest or minister that is acting in a confessional capacity, or
- Your doctor.
Some state's laws allow that what you say to your therapist or a journalist may also be privileged information. A judge could also rule that a conversation falls under the category of privileged for various legal reasons, and this ruling would be effective during all stages of a criminal case, from pretrial hearings to post-conviction proceedings.
2. Conversations with family members (other than your spouse) or in the following situations are not privileged.
If you talk about the crime or your charges to either of your parents or any of your siblings or offspring, they can be called and required to testify about it at a trial.
If you disclose the conversation to a third person, or if you have a privileged conversation with someone in a public place and another person hears it, these people could also be asked to testify.
3. Written correspondence about your case between you and your lawyer is privileged.
If you are incarcerated, mail between you and your attorney needs to be labeled as legal correspondence. It should be opened only in your presence, and jail personnel may be permitted to glance at it to make sure it a communication from your lawyer.
Email communication with your attorney is also private, but if you copy it to a third party, this will nullify the privileged aspect.
4. There are specific rules for spouses.
There may be some exceptions to spousal privilege. For example, in many states, this privilege is not applicable in the case of domestic abuse.
Depending on the state, this privilege might extend even to a conversation you had before the marriage and during the marriage, even if you and your mate decide to separate or divorce after you have charged with the crime. On the other hand, even if an ex is restricted from testifying about a conversation you had with them, they may be required to testify about some of your actions that they witnessed.
5. Privileged communication can be waived.
If you want someone such as a doctor to testify about a conversation you had with them, you can waive the privilege to help your defense.
6. If you misuse it, it can become invalid.
If you were to use privileged communication to try to involve others such as your spouse or your attorney in additional criminal activities or for some other unethical scheme, this would invalidate your right to it.
7. Privileged Communication with your attorney is considered an important legal right.
Due to the right afforded to you with privileged conversation when you are charged with a crime, you can feel free to discuss matters freely and honestly with your lawyer. An attorney can help you by taking in the facts of the case and find aspects of it to build a good defense against the charges.
For more information, contact Bare Law Firm or a similar organization.