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Should I hide incriminating information from my defense lawyer?
The answer is almost certainly no. This is because the California lawyer-client privilege protects nearly everything you say in confidence to your attorney from disclosure.
1. What is California’s attorney-client privilege?
California’s lawyer-client privilege is an evidentiary privilege that protects all confidential communications between a client and his/her attorney.1
The privilege applies to:
the client (who does not need to disclose any of these communications and may not be forced by subpoena to do so),
the lawyer (who may not disclose any of these communications without the client’s permission), and
any third parties who learn of these communications through eavesdropping (who may not disclose them without the client’s consent).
2. Are there exceptions to the privilege?
The only exceptions to the attorney-client privilege in California are situations where:
the client seeks the lawyer’s help in committing or planning a crime, and
the lawyer feels it is necessary to disclose the communications to prevent someone from getting killed or seriously hurt.2
So, by all means, do not hold back important information in your conversations with your criminal defense attorney. These conversations are private and privileged. And the more information your attorney has, the more he/she can do to help you.
California Evidence Code 954.
California Evidence Code 956-956.5.
About the Author
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.