Authorities eavesdropping on attorney/client conversations?

I always thought that the conversation of a defense attorney with his client was sacrosanct and that cops or jailers couldn’t listen in and even if they did the evidence would be inadmissible. But after reading the following on lawfirms.com I’m now not so sure.

No expectation of privacy in a phone call? No expectation of privacy in a discussion between attorney and client unless they take care to conduct it in whispers? I mean, what the hell is a ‘loud’ discussion? One that an eavesdropping cop or jailer can overhear? All of a sudden the attorney/client relationship doesn’t seem so privileged any more.

So what’s the dope on this? Is the above extract accurate? And if so would it pretty much apply in every state of the Union?

I cannot speak for the US, but as a lawyer who regularly deals with incarcerated clients, I would be shocked (and disappointed) to know that my private conversations with clients were being monitored, even if the authorities did nothing with the information gained.

At the local jail, the rooms where I interview clients are typically sparsely-furnished offices: a desk, a phone, two chairs, and a big panic button, should I need it. I haven’t yet found a bug. That being said, however, there is no way to know if phone calls are being monitored. Again, I wouldn’t be happy if they were.

Well, in the paragraph right below the one quoted by the OP, I found this:

  • If a client makes statements portending intentions to commit future crimes, which endanger others’ well being, an attorney is ethically required to intervene through law enforcement, and if not done, can be disbarred from legal practice. *

Which may be true in some jurisdictions, but is not true in my state, nor is it true under Rule 1.6 of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, so I’d take anything else on that site with a grain of salt.

That said, I do make an effort to avoid being overheard when talking to clients about confidential matters.

Attorney-client privilege is sacrosanct, but if anyone overhears what is said, that is not protected. Bugging the room would be a illegal without a court order (just like bugging any other room), but if you’re walking down the hallways talking to your lawyer, than anyone who overhears the conversation can testify what he heard. (The privilege only applies to attorneys, not to anyone who might overhear them.)

A jail routinely monitors phone calls and any lawyer would advise his client not to discuss details over the phone. But the private conversation between attorney and client is usually done in a private room where no one can overhear normal conversation.

I’m confused. The article you cited says:

This seems to say a lawyer has an obligation to report it if his client tells him of plans to commit a significant crime.

There’s even little stickers on the phones telling people that all phone calls are subject to monitoring.

No, it says I may, but it does not require me to do so.

Yes, I’ve read of that being done. There’s at least one Federal prison which has signs posted over all of the prisoners’ phones warning of that; dumb felons still sometimes say things over the phones that later come back to haunt them.

It depends where you are as well. For example, in 2003 the Manx Bugging Scandal was unocvered where it turned out that the police were bugging conversations between solicitors and their clients at the police station. That, needless to say, was totally and utterly illegal.

Of course that wouldn’t happen now, the Manx justice system is completely impeccable and has a perfect reputation.

Oh wait, silly me, a few days ago it was announced that the Attorney General seems to be being prosecuted for perjury, forgery, and committing acts against public justice.

The Isle of Man does sometimes work in a rather, um, loose-and-fast way though. Surely mainland UK police wouldn’t do such a thing, leading to murderers getting off?

Like hell they wouldn’t

A phone call from your house, yes. From jail? Not so much. Also attorney/client privilege is breached when there is a 3rd party present. Bugging the room wouldn’t be kosher, but if you see a guard standing there, you can’t expect that he won’t repeat what you said.

Most jails/prisons have regulations, though. Mail to an attorney is not scanned and usually you get a private conference room when talking to an attorney.