Attorney-client privilege is absolutely necessary when it comes to building the best possible defense case, yet often it is unclear what remains confidential between an attorney and the person they are defending.
The American Bar Association states that “in the absence of the client’s informed consent, the lawyer must not reveal information relating to the representation.” However, there are certain situations in which confidential information must be disclosed to other parties. These scenarios are defined as disclosures adverse to the client and are rare yet required by law.
The first of these instances states that attorney-client confidentiality must be broken if knowledge disclosed to the attorney could prevent certain harm or death. For example, should a lawyer be informed by their client of a possible assault that is to take place at a later date, they would be obligated to inform the authorities of this information. The lawyer must take action if they are in any way able to prevent harm to another person based on the information they receive from their client. Scenarios such as this fall under what is known as the “crime-fraud exception.”
Another scenario that falls under the crime-fraud exception and could require broken confidentiality is defined as “limited exception” and states that the lawyer must reveal information given to them by the client if said information would prevent the client themselves from committing a white-collar crime such as fraud or embezzlement. This is referred to as “limited exception” because, while attorneys are not required by law to disclose this information to the authorities, they also cannot aid the client in further engaging in illegal activities.
Another scenario states that a lawyer is not required to disclose information, but rather authorized to reveal it in situations that would grant the attorney legal advice for the case they are currently pursuing. Some information must be revealed in these cases in order for the lawyer to build a more effective case. As such, they are granted permission by law to reveal said information often without the consent of their client.
In many of these cases in which a lawyer must break attorney-client privilege, they also have the right to cease representation of the client. In order to give yourself the best possible defense, it is important to take note of these scenarios and avoid them at all costs; the most effective way to do this is to proceed through your case legally and without any further violations that could result in the revelation of confidential information.