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Is my attorney-client privilege at risk?

Norman residents with open criminal cases who watch or read the news may suddenly fear that their attorney-client privileges may be breached. Rest assured that this would be a highly unlikely occurrence in most typical criminal cases.

How, then, did the attorney for the President of the United States find himself on such precarious legal grounds? Given that this latest development is part of a large and ongoing federal investigation where much remains unrevealed, it's impossible to pinpoint the specifics.

However, there are generalities that are involved in such instances, which are not without precedent. Attorney-client privilege has never been absolute, and one disqualifying factor is the crime-fraud exception.

What is the crime-fraud exception?

Suppose that you are accused of a white-collar crime like embezzlement. You have the right to full disclosure with your attorney. This is because he or she needs all pertinent information surrounding the alleged criminal act in order to present the most effective and strategic defense.

With that in mind, you can feel free to share what you know with your attorney -- with a major caveat. Suppose that your defense includes bribing someone to destroy evidence or having them perjure themselves on your behalf. Because those communications involve the commission or perpetuation of a criminal act, you cannot expect to freely discuss this with your criminal defense attorney.

Should I worry?

Chances are good that you have nothing to worry about. Attorneys realize that these exceptions exist, and most would loathe losing their freedom or law licenses over a client's defense. Because of this, few defense attorneys would allow themselves to be put in such a position. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that you will ever face having your attorney-client privileges breached.

Source: New York Daily News, "Attorney-client privilege is not 'dead' _ and not absolute," April 10, 2018

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