Trust No One
Disclosing or communicating information about a case goes by many different names. There are restrictions on what kind of information may be shared publicly. The court’s regulations may permit you to disclose information about your case to others, but only under certain conditions. This is necessary to safeguard the personal information of persons who may be involved, as well as prevent a scenario that facilitates self-incrimination.
Before consulting your lawyer, don’t give anyone any information concerning your case, and follow your attorney’s advice. The attorney-client confidentiality requires your lawyers to protect the privacy of your communications with them. Remember that this privilege only covers communications between you and your lawyer.
What you share with your loved ones, friends, or even cellmates is not private information. If members of your immediate or extended family are required to give sworn testimony in court, they will be required to answer questions under oath. They must provide any information they may have learned about your case.
The Right to Remain Silent
“Every word you say can and will be used against you.”
It is part of the Miranda warning, which arresting authorities read to suspects. Although you may be involved in a civil trial, not a criminal one, the same fundamental premise applies. The lawyers for the defendant may utilize everything you say about the case to refute your statements and develop their case. Discussing your case with the police or prosecutor is typically not a good idea unless your lawyer encourages you to. It will do more harm to your case than good.
Sharing on a Social Network
Social networking may affect drug offenses, violent crimes, domestic violence accusations, and drunk driving prosecutions. A post showing you out with pals the night of the accident might hurt your case. Negative statements about a former partner or threatening messages to an accuser might persuade a jury to assume you committed the crime, even if you are innocent.
If you comment to the authorities before you know their evidence against you, you may compromise your ability to mount a strong defense. A simple snapshot of you smiling on social media may signal to the defense that your case is not as severe as you claim. It may sound absurd, but it occurs in courtrooms more often than you imagine. Consequently, many lawyers advise against using social media throughout the process.
Never give in to the illusion that your “privacy settings” are doing their job. The information you provide online becomes part of a permanent archive. Posting about trips, weekends away, and other events that contradict your side will ruin your case. This is just one example of the bad judgment that can derail a criminal case.
When Do I Get to Discuss my Situation, and With Who?
You are permitted to discuss any aspect of your case with the following individuals:
- Your legal representative.
- Anyone approved by your legal representative.
You may also consult with anybody you see fit, provided you do so for one of the following purposes. However, you and the person you approach for advice or assistance must maintain confidentiality if you want to succeed in presenting your case or receiving support during proceedings.
- To seek outside assistance in resolving an argument with a party to a legal proceeding.
- If you have a problem with the proceedings or anyone involved and want more information or help, such as from your lawyer or a witness expert, you can file a complaint.
In the scenarios above, you are free to discuss any aspect of the case you choose, except for a draft decision. Information presented or discussed in or out of court might be considered evidence.
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Seppi Esfandi is an Expert Attorney who has over 21 years of practice defending a variety of cases.