In criminal law, the attorney-client privilege is a sacred safeguard, crucial for open and candid communication between attorneys and their clients. California Evidence Code sections 950-962 serve as the bedrock of this privilege in the state’s legal system, ensuring that confidential conversations remain protected.California Evidence Code Sections 950-962
The attorney-client privilege is enshrined in California through Evidence Code sections 950-962. These sections establish the fundamental principles that govern confidential communication between attorneys and their clients.
The attorney-client privilege is held by the client. In the context of criminal defense, it means that the client has the authority to invoke the privilege, preventing the attorney from disclosing confidential information without their consent.
While the client holds the privilege, they can choose to waive it voluntarily. This may occur when they decide to disclose otherwise confidential information. However, the waiver must be explicit and informed. For example, a client might choose to testify about their involvement in a conspiracy to commit murder in court, effectively waiving the privilege for that particular information.
The attorney-client privilege lasts indefinitely, continuing even after the attorney-client relationship has concluded.The Crime-Fraud Exception
An essential caveat to the attorney-client privilege is the crime-fraud exception. If a client seeks legal advice or assistance to further an ongoing or impending crime or fraud, the privilege does not apply. In such cases, the attorney may have a legal obligation to disclose the information to prevent or rectify the unlawful act.Federal Rules of Evidence Rule 502
In addition to state laws, Federal Rules of Evidence, specifically Rule 502, also impact the attorney-client privilege. Rule 502 addresses the attorney-client privilege concerning disclosure in federal proceedings, and seeks to promote consistency in the application of the attorney-client privilege. It helps protect confidential information while ensuring that, when disclosure is necessary, it is done consistently with ethical obligations and legal requirements. However, it is crucial to recognize that Rule 502 does not create or alter state law privileges, so its application remains within the context of federal proceedings.Example of Holding the Privilege
A criminal defendant, John, retains a defense attorney, Sarah, for his trial. John confesses to Sarah that he was present at the scene of a burglary, but he did not commit the act. This confession is protected by the attorney-client privilege. John can choose whether or not to waive the privilege and allow Sarah to use this information in his defense. Sarah, however, cannot disclose that John was present at the crime scene.Example of Waiving the Privilege
In court, John decides to testify on his behalf and provides details about his alibi and his presence at the crime scene. By doing so, John waives the attorney-client privilege for those specific details, allowing the prosecution to cross-examine him regarding his testimony.The Crime-Fraud Exception
During a consultation, a client named Lisa discloses her intention to fabricate evidence to support her defense. If her attorney, Daniel, believes that Lisa is attempting to commit a fraud on the court, he may have an obligation to disclose her plans, as they fall under the crime-fraud exception. While Daniel is bound by the attorney-client privilege, ethical and legal responsibilities may take precedence in such circumstances.
The attorney-client privilege is the backbone of the attorney-client relationship in criminal defense. If you are facing charges for a crime, it is critical that you hire an attorney that you can trust and that has an in-depth knowledge of the confidences involved in representing a criminal defendant. As a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience, Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Michael Kraut has extensive experience in zealously advocating for his clients’ rights while keeping their communications privileged.
For more information about the criminal justice process, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.