When Can A Defense Attorney Legally Break Confidentiality?


Defense attorneys must respect client confidentiality at all times; however, some situations require them to break this rule.

Under this exception, lawyers may disclose confidential information when necessary to prevent their clients from engaging in criminal or fraudulent conduct that could result in death or severe bodily harm to other persons.

Client-attorney privilege

Attorney-client privilege ensures that clients can freely discuss sensitive matters with their lawyers without fear of inadvertent disclosure, encouraging candid and open communication that leads to more efficient legal representation. However, this privilege has its limits; sometimes a court may force lawyers to break confidentiality.

If a client provides information that could assist them in future crimes or fraud, the attorney-client privilege typically does not apply; instead, an attorney must consider if disclosing that information would help avoid death or substantial injury to someone.

As with communications made in the presence of another person, any discussion which occurs in public places or overheard is not protected by attorney-client privilege. Furthermore, attorney-client privilege can be breached if confidential information is revealed to someone other than one’s own lawyer – even if that individual was not part of your representation when initially providing it. Furthermore, courts have often held that attorney-client privilege may be broken during litigation between heirs of deceased clients.

Client-third party privilege

The Client-Third Party Privilege (CTPP) provides legal protection to enable clients to discuss sensitive information with third parties without fear of compromise in regards to confidentiality of conversations. However, this privilege can be compromised under certain conditions; for instance a third party could breach attorney-client privilege if communication serves criminal activities or fraudsters.

Lawyer-client privilege can also be violated if a client discloses an attorney-drafted document to non-attorney third parties without first consulting an attorney, unless said third parties are needed for translation and interpretation purposes in exchange for legal advice (Kovel rule as per US v Kovel 296 F2d 918 2nd Cir 1961).

Client-third party privilege can also be violated if its contents were overheard by third parties; this can happen in public settings or if speaking over prison phone lines that warn that conversations may be monitored.

Client-inmate privilege

Attorney-client privilege is one of the keystones of our legal system, as it ensures clients can share confidential information without fear of it getting back to authorities or making their defense more powerful. But this privilege can be challenging to navigate successfully.

Criminal defense lawyers must remain mindful of clients revealing privileged information to unsuitable parties, which could pose serious challenges to their case. Attorneys should make sure their clients understand the potential repercussions associated with breaking confidentiality and how such actions could potentially alter the proceedings of their case.

Some prisons have policies that extend attorney-client privilege to inmate correspondence with courts, the Office of State’s Attorney General (OSAG), government agencies and facility administrators – this can cause unnecessary confusion for attorneys as well as their clients trying to determine what correspondence falls under privilege and what doesn’t.

Client-contract privilege

Attorney-client privilege prevents lawyers from disclosing confidential communications between themselves and clients, whether written or verbal. Conversations that pertain to a case and were intended by both parties as private are protected by this privilege; however there are exceptions; for instance when communication was made for purposes related to crime or fraud (known as crime fraud exception). Breaking this privilege would aid investigation or prosecution efforts of such crimes.

Clients may breach attorney-client privilege by divulging confidential information to third parties or having conversations with their lawyer in public. A client may waive his or her privilege either assertively, or by informing others that conversations between themselves and their lawyer are no longer confidential. For courts to break attorney-client privilege, evidence must show it’s necessary for the case and beneficial to their client.