Here at Greco Neyland, we understand the impulse to try to clear your name with your family or friends even before you try to clear your name in the courts.
Nobody wants to be humiliated and accused in front of their loved ones.
Unfortunately, talking to friends or family members can harm your case.
Here’s everything you need to know about the consequences of sharing information.
Your Words Can be Used Against You
When people hear “anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law,” they tend to assume the phrase refers to any words you share with police officers.
In truth, the Miranda warning refers to any words you share with almost anyone else.
The prosecution can subpoena any family member or friend and force them to relate those words back to a courtroom. If any of them incriminate you in any way, you could undermine your entire case.
Remember that you don’t know everything about the prosecution’s theory of the crime. You don’t know when a seemingly innocuous statement could provide the nail in your coffin.
Social Media is a Trap
Whatever you do, do not vent about your case on social media or jump in to correct the record when people gossip about you.
Social media can be printed and entered into evidence. That moment you spent popping off and clapping back can be twisted around to tell a different story than the one you think you are telling.
Just turn off social media for the duration of your case. Delete your account if you have to, but do not log in.
Understanding Privileged Communication
Your communications with your lawyer are privileged, meaning your lawyer can’t be forced to reveal what you said to them. There are exceptions even to attorney-client privilege, but generally, it’s safe to talk to your attorney privately.
Limited spousal privilege exists but is not always absolute. A spouse can be forced to testify if you’re charged with a crime against the other spouse, are charged with a crime against your children, are charged with committing a crime against a third party while committing a crime against the other spouse, are asked to testify about matters pre-dating the marriage, or if you are charged with human trafficking.
Limited medical privilege does exist when discussing matters with your medical provider, and limited patient confidentiality does exist with your therapist. Nevertheless, there are situations where they can be forced to reveal information.
Clergy privilege does exist. You may be able to talk to your priest. Your communication with your clergy member may be privileged if you have a private conversation with your clergy member and have a reasonable belief that the clergy member is acting in his or her professional or spiritual capacity. Statements made to a clergy member during administrative or disciplinary meetings do not apply, and clergy members must report suspected child abuse. In addition, you waive privilege if the clergy member testifies as a character witness.
Ask your attorney before making confessions or incriminating statements to your therapist, clergy member, or doctor.
Your Lawyer Won’t Share Information Either
Sometimes friends and family members pester defense lawyers hoping they’ll get information about the case. They may pester you to give consent for you to do so.
We cannot talk to your loved one about your legal defense even if that person is paying for it. In fact, the attorney-client privilege can be waived or lost if privileged communications are revealed or disclosed to others.
When your friends and family members ask questions, simply say, “My attorney is handling it.” If you want to emphasize your innocence, you can say, “I’m pleading not guilty, and that’s all I can say.”
Neither of these phrases can be used against you in any productive way, so they’re safe enough to say. They also help to shut the door on further inquiries.
If your loved one is in trouble, the best thing you can do is help to deflect or eliminate questions aimed in their general direction. Help them keep their information confidential to give them a better chance at staying out of jail.
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