H. Michael Steinberg has 38+ years of experience practicing Colorado criminal law. Mr. Steinberg strives to stay current with the ever changing aspects of criminal law issues and updates resulting in his extensive knowledge of successful criminal defense as well as appellate work. He is also an active member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar Association, the Colorado Trial Lawyer's Association, and the Colorado and Arapahoe Bar Associations.
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Confidentiality Of Lawyer – Colorado Attorney – Client Communications – Is It Safe To Talk To Your Lawyer From Jail?

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By H. Michael Steinberg – Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer

Confidentiality Of Lawyer – Client Communications – Is It Safe To Talk To Your Lawyer From Jail? – The sanctity of lawyer client communication is one of the most fundamental of all rights accorded under Colorado criminal law.

The confidentiality of your conversations with your lawyer, doctor or spiritual advisor are among the oldest privileges accorded by our legal system.

Among these privileges – the attorney client privilege underlies another of the most sacred buttresses the constitutional rights that exists in American jurisprudence – the privilege against self-incrimination under the 5th Amendment.

Without the right to confidentiality with their clients – Colorado criminal defense lawyers could function – clients could not trust them – and it would be impossible for the client to be completely honest with their criminal defense lawyer since they could never tell their lawyer the full story – the whole truth or fear that it could later be used against the accused.

Phone Calls, Emails, and Other Client – Communications From Jail

Adjacent to nearly every phone in every jail and prison in Colorado – is a sign that warns the inmate that their phone calls are monitored and what they say can be used against them

Whether lawyer- client conferences are recorded and – or monitored or not always clear. While it IS clear under Colorado law – that lawyer client phone conferences cannot be used against the accused in a criminal trial – the “accidental” listening in by jail personnel makes it very possible that the prosecutor’s office could be tipped off as to strategy and background information they would not otherwise have been privy to – thus gaining a head start on weaknesses in their own case and learning about the strengths of the defense case.

The Right To Assume That Your Calls To Your Lawyer Are Privileged And Confidential

If an individual is in custody and needs to speak to his or her lawyer – it is sound advice never to assume that the call is not being monitored. While it may seem safe to assume that confidential statements between a client and their lawyer are private, and that attorney-client privilege is respected – it never hurts to check with jail personnel to make certain the assumption is correct.

Furthermore – the experienced Colorado criminal defense lawyer should make certain – even where the prosecutor has reasons to believe the conversations are admissible at trial – that the DA subpoena the relevant jail calls – as is now required by defense lawyers, and motion the Judge to review the calls in private (in camera) before they can be released to the DA.

It is important to note that the only exception to the attorney-client privilege is a situation where a client is conspiring with his lawyer to commit a crime or where the client intends to – and discloses to his or her lawyer – a plan to commit a new crime in the future.

The Impact Of Digital Technology On Jail Phone Calls

Today’s digital telephone technology has resulted in the instant access to ALL phone calls made to and from our jails and prisons. Calls can be sorted by inmate – by time and date. While lawyer client communications are essential – more important is the sanctity of the those conversations.

Conclusion – Unless Colorado criminal defense lawyers can be assured that their conversations are completely confidential – they should only communicate with their clients in person – in court or at the jail.