So many legal myths, so little time to bust them all. Welcome back to Legal Mythbusters, where we take a look at some common misconceptions of various legal principles. If you missed our first installment, be sure to check it out and see if you learn anything new about the legal system! Let’s take a look at some more legal myths and see what’s fact and what’s fiction.
Myth: Attorney-client communication is absolutely confidential.
The attorney-client privilege of confidentiality is in place to encourage client and attorney trust and communication so the counsel can best represent the client. You can absolutely tell your attorney about criminal acts you had a role in or witnessed. But there are at least two notable exceptions to this confidentiality.
Firstly, you cannot communicate with your attorney in order to commit more crimes or circumvent the law in any way. This rule, known as the crime-fraud exception, restricts any client – attorney communication that aides or abets criminal behavior.
Secondly, an attorney has every right to share a client’s communications if someone’s life is in jeopardy or if they are in danger of physical injury. Sure, you can tell your attorney if you drove the getaway van for a bank heist. But don’t go telling them you have unfinished business with your criminal friends, or they may be legally obligated to testify against you.
Myth: Lawyers are not only evil, but a last resort.
Lawyers get a bad rap in media, and a lot of that is because those dissatisfied with their lawyers are the loudest. Losing a case can have meaningful consequences, so an upset client is quick to fire off a bad review online or bad mouth an attorney that didn’t perform up to their personal standards.
But let’s think about the facts: Lawyers have knowledge, experience, and a familiarity with the legal system that most of us do not. Hiring a lawyer for a few hundred bucks could save you years tied up in court and thousands of dollars of debt. To “lawyer up” may just save you years of anguish and appeals.
Myth: Law Enforcement needs a warrant to search my stuff.
This is a big deal in a lot of crime TV shows. The mustached police chief, short cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth, smashes his fist on his desk and screams “You’re a loose cannon, Smith! You know you need a warrant to enter the perp’s house and get that darn evidence. Now we can’t use this in court!” Suffice to say, that is not how it goes in reality.
Getting a warrant signed by a judge for the purpose of investigating a normally private space is required. But law enforcement is allowed to make searches under other conditions as well. If an officer comes across something suspicious or illegal in their normal routine, or if they suspect a crime is happening or evidence is being destroyed, they have legal permission to search a person or area.
Myth: Your spouse can’t testify against you.
Like all legal principles, spousal immunity has its own exceptions and limitations. Firstly, one half of a couple could simply waive this right and testify anyway. Secondly, it depends on state laws and what crime has been committed. Thirdly, you have to be married at the time of the trial. In my opinion, spousal immunity just keeps us from some spicy courtroom drama!
Myth: I’m not bound by this contract because I signed it under duress.
Duress is not a synonym for stress, at least not legally. Constraint must be illegally enacted with the intent to force someone to do something against their will. So, don’t lean back on this excuse when it comes to signing a contract you don’t agree with. Duress is more like someone dangling you out of a window, and less like “I was stressed at the time and didn’t think it through properly.”
Another five legal myths busted and out of the way. Feel free to send this to anyone who is considering over sharing with their attorney or considering using the “duress” excuse to get out of an air-tight contract. If you liked these busted myths, check out our All Stars edition on famous legal cases and common misconceptions about them.
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