Privilege Allows You to Speak With Your Lawyer Without It Being Used Against You
Video Transcribed: My name is Brian L. Jackson and I’m a Tulsa Father’s Rights Attorney. I’d like to talk to you a little bit about something called privilege. Privilege is a legal term for things that are private, that you have a right to expect privacy in. Specifically, it’s in the context of what can, and can’t be brought into court.
Examples of things that are privileged, in Oklahoma, your communications to your therapist if it’s a psychologist, a psychiatrist, or counselor. There’s a priest-penitent privilege. What that means is if you go to confession or you confess something to a religious leader, then it’s private. There’s this inter-spousal privilege.
If you tell something to your wife, it’s private, although there are certain limits to that. Obviously, attorney-client privilege, anything you say to your attorney is private between you and your attorney, unless and until you authorize them to speak about it.
Why is privilege important? Well, in the legal context, it allows you to speak frankly with your lawyer without worrying that whatever it is you tell them getting out and being used against you.
It’s why, for example, if you hire a lawyer to represent you in a criminal matter, you can talk to them frankly about, “Okay, what are the facts of the situation as you understand it,” without worrying about jamming yourself up later with them being called to the stand.
But with other privileges, where this becomes important is, let’s say you’re a dad and you’re in the middle of a custody dispute. And six years before the dispute…
Or let’s say closer, and maybe a year ago, you went and saw a counselor about depression. And let’s say that you told the counselor that you were having suicidal thoughts.
Obviously, you do not want this information being released to just anybody considering how sensitive that is and considering society’s attitudes towards folks with mental health problems. This is information that should rightly stay private.
So could it be brought into court? Well, that depends. That information could be considered relevant to custody litigation, absolutely. The mental health of the parties is 100% fair game for the court to consider.
However, you may be able to claim the privilege to communicate with your therapist. That would, even though it’s relevant information that a court could consider, it could nevertheless not be admissible because it’s privileged.
Now where this is an important thing to keep in mind is when you are dealing with privileged information you should be aware of who you’re talking about it too so that you don’t inadvertently waive that privilege.
Also, anything in writing that you get from a privileged source, for example, emails from your lawyer. A record from your therapist, for example. You want to be careful how you handle that and who you permit access to because you could be deemed to have implicitly waived that privilege if you allow it to fall into certain people’s hands knowingly.
Obviously, if you sign a waiver then it’s waived. If you voluntarily speak about it, it’s waived. But if you want to keep it private, then you want to make a point of keeping it private. And this is also a really good argument for “always read what you signed before you sign it” because you don’t want to accidentally sign off something privileged without really realizing that’s what you’ve done.
If there is something sensitive sitting out there about you with somebody who does have a duty of confidence and privilege, for example, a therapist, make sure that you don’t disclose this information to someone without a need.
And that gets important, for example, if you are separated from the mother of your children as a father, if you have a therapist who’s helping you work through your divorce, to work through the breakup if it was you weren’t married to her, you want to be really careful what you tell your ex about what you may or may not have said to your therapist.
I mean, I think that’s sort of common sense. But just so you’re aware because you don’t want those records to get subpoenaed and you don’t want them to be able to go get a court order for those records.
Again, it is privileged, but there are ways you might inadvertently waive that privilege and thus make it fair game.
So that’s what privilege is, that’s how it works. And the bottom line is, is if you want to keep it private, make sure you keep it private.
My name is Brian L. Jackson, I’m a Dads’ rights attorney in Tulsa, Ok, and I am here if you need any legal assistance.