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    As a former Deputy Public Defender in Riverside County, Mr. Donath has always been on the defense side of the law. 

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    Top 100 Trial Attorneys in California 2012-2014, 2008 Trial Attorney of the Year by the Riverside County Public Defender's Office, and dozens of other awards and accolades.

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Attorney-Client Privilege in California

Posted in Criminal Defense on November 25, 2020

Most people have heard about the attorney-client privilege, whether they have seen it on TV or in the movies. The attorney-client privilege refers to any communication between an attorney and their client becoming privileged and confidential. In other words, an attorney is not generally allowed to disclose the privileged information that has been told to them by their client, and they cannot be compelled by the court or anyone else to disclose such information. This protects the integrity of the legal system.

California law about attorney-client privilege

The attorney-client privilege is located in California Evidence Code 954, and has become an invaluable part of the legal process in this state. Under this law, the statute says that:

  • A client does not need to disclose any confidential communication between themself and their lawyer that takes place within the confines of a lawyer-client relationship.
  • The client is allowed to prevent their attorney from disclosing any confidential communication that takes place within the confines of the lawyer-client relationship.

Additionally, an attorney is required to “claim the attorney-client privilege” and refused to disclose privileged communication whenever asked by another party.

Examples of attorney-client privilege in CA

There are numerous ways in which the attorney-client privilege can arise, and examining how this privilege works is best done by looking at theoretical yet common examples that occur across the state each day.

  • Suppose for a moment that a person is arrested for DUI in California. The person arrested hires a Riverside DUI attorney and admits to them and that they did indeed have too much to drink before they drove their vehicle. The attorney assures their client that they will do everything they can to get the charge dismissed pled down to a reckless driving offense. The client’s attorney is not allowed to disclose the content of their conversations to any person in the court process, even though the attorney knows that the client has privately admitted guilt.
  • Suppose that a person is charged with check fraud in California (Penal Code 476 PC). The alleged offender meets with an attorney that has been provided by the public defender’s office. As they discuss the case, the person charged with check fraud provides their attorney with financial information which deems them ineligible for assistance from the public defender’s office. Even though the public defender will no longer be representing the client, any conversations that they had pertaining to the case will be confidential under the attorney-client privilege in the state.

Exceptions to attorney-client privilege in California

There are various exceptions to the attorney-client privilege in this state. This includes two major exceptions:

  1. The attorney-client privilege will not apply if the client seeks help from the attorney in carrying out or planning a crime or perpetrating a fraud.
  2. The attorney-client privilege will not exist if the lawyer reasonably believes that the disclosure of confidential communications is necessary to prevent substantial bodily harm or death.

Work with an attorney for help with your case

If you or somebody you care about has been charged with a crime, you should work with a skilled criminal defense attorney in Riverside as soon as possible. An attorney will be able to analyze the facts of your case and help formulate a sound defense strategy on your behalf. In general, most communication between you and your attorney will remain privileged, and your attorney will act as your advocate throughout the entirety of your case.