Client Confidentiality in North Carolina
Client confidentially is the bedrock of the attorney-client relationship. At Gilles Law, we take this duty very seriously, as it is one of the most important pieces of our relationship with our clients. We have written a blog for those interested in learning more about confidentiality and privilege as it relates to the attorney-client relationship.
First, let’s discuss the difference between confidentiality and privilege. All criminal defense attorneys owe a duty of confidentiality to their clients. This duty attaches as soon as a potential attorney-client relationship is formed. Attorney-client privilege is a legal principle that prevents a client’s communications with her attorney from being used against her. We will first discuss each of these principles separately.
Any communications between clients OR potential clients with our law firm will be kept entirely confidential. Meaning, if John Smith calls our office and for legal advice, we engage with him, and John tells us where he hid a body, we cannot tell anyone. Similarly, due to attorney-client privilege, we cannot be compelled to tell anyone where the body is hidden. Please note, that these protections described here apply to past criminal acts. A client cannot expect the same sort of protection when talking about a plan to commit a future crime. Let’s take a look at attorney-client privilege now.
The attorney-client privilege belongs to the client. The client is the only person who can decide whether or not to break that privilege. Please note that you may be breaking your privilege without knowing it. For example, if you have a third party in the room with you and your criminal defense lawyer, there is no legal privilege. This is because, by inviting the third party to listen to the conversation, you have waived the privilege. However, the duty of confidentiality remains, and the attorney will not broadcast your information.
Who do these principles apply to?
These principles extend past the criminal defense lawyers. Anyone who works at our firm, including assistants, are subject to the duty of confidentiality. Similarly, attorney-client privilege kicks in even when you are speaking with an assistant or intern. Additionally, if we engage with another attorney regarding your case, confidentiality and attorney-client privilege will be present regarding those communications as well.
Emails to and from clients are just another form of communication and are just as confidential as a conversation you might have with your attorney. While you should always consider the potential issues of security when sending private emails, the fact remains that the emails that you send to your attorney are confidential and privileged.
Work product is any document or product that an attorney produces with regard to your case is confidential and subject to the attorney-client privilege. Commonly, this includes items such as notes or memorandums. Attorney work product cannot be used against you in a court of law and is not subject to discovery.
If you are facing criminal charges in North Carolina or South Carolina, you should contact a criminal defense attorney to discuss your options. Gilles Law has criminal defense lawyers licensed in both North Carolina and South Carolina, at both the state and federal level.