I told my lawyer that I plan to commit a crime in the future. Is this confidential information?

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Question:

I told my lawyer that I plan to commit a crime in the future. Is this confidential information?

Answer:

The confidentiality of attorney-client communications usually does not extend to statements pertaining to future frauds or crimes. The government can compel a defense lawyer to testify to a client’s statement about a future crime. In emergency or life-threatening situations, a lawyer might have to reveal such a statement to the police even before a crime is committed.

Example: (Based on the John Grisham book and film, A Time to Kill): Two defendants are arrested for brutally raping Carl Lee’s daughter. Carl Lee tells Jake, a lawyer and friend, of his plan to kill his daughter’s attackers, and asks Jake to represent him after he’s arrested. At this point, Jake should urge Carl Lee not to take the law into his own hands. But if Carl Lee insists that he will take personal revenge against the defendants, Jake should report the threat to the police so that they can prevent harm both to Carl Lee and to the attackers. In many states, Jake’s failure to report Carl Lee’s threat would be an ethical violation that could lead to Jake’s suspension or disbarment.

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