Which Conversations Are Considered “Privileged” Under The Law?

Which Conversations Are Considered Privileged Under The Law

While there is no specific “right to privacy” defined within the U.S. Constitution, both state and federal laws do include several protections for what is termed “privileged” conversations or communications, governing what can (and cannot) be divulged in court. Here, we’ll take a look at what types of relationships can be deemed “privileged,” what that means, and what exceptions exist to the privilege rule. 

If you have been arrested, a trustworthy bail bond agency can be your best friend. However, keep in mind that your conversations with a bail bondsman is not privileged.

Defining “Privileged” Communication

Generally, privileged communication is defined as any communication that occurs within the context of a protected relationship where both parties have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Protected relationships may include spousal, doctor-patient, and attorney-client relationships. Such conversations and their content are considered inadmissible in court in most cases (we’ll talk about the exceptions later) because the courts understand that people need to be able to trust that their spouses, attorneys, and doctors will not be compelled to testify against them.

Each state has its own variation of the privilege statute. In the state of Georgia, for example, privileged communications may include:

  • Communications between husband and wife
  • Communications between attorney and client
  • Communications among grand jurors
  • Communications regarding any secrets of state
  • Communications between psychiatrist and patient
  • Communications between a licensed psychologist and patient
  • Communications between a licensed clinical social worker or psychiatric, marriage, or professional counselor and patient
  • Communications between accountant and client

(see Georgia Code § 24-5-501)

Exceptions to the Privilege Statute

To qualify as privileged (and therefore protected) communication, conversations between client and attorney/physician/mental health professional must occur in the context of seeking professional services. Casual conversations may not always be protected by privilege, and this is often determined at the discretion of the court.

Other exceptions to the privilege rule include:

  • Disclosure with consent: When both parties agree to divulge the specifics of their communication in court.
  • Disclosure without consent: When the court deems it has a compelling interest in divulging certain information. Such exceptions include:

         - Court-ordered medical or psychiatric evaluation to determine the current physical or mental state of an individual.

         - “Health Placed in Issue” — when the determination of a person’s physical or mental state is critical to resolving the case at hand (this applies to civil proceedings only).

         - “Harm to Others” — when the court deems that a significant risk for harm exists to other persons if certain facts are not divulged. In such cases, the court may compel testimony to prevent injury or death to others.

         - “Abuse of Others” — when the court believes that a child, elder, or infirm person may be subject to abuse. (Elder abuse by health care professionals in an institutional setting, for example, falls under this heading.)

If you or a loved one has been arrested and charged with a crime, it’s important to remember that all communication between you and your legal counsel (whether hired or court-appointed) regarding your case is considered privileged and cannot be revealed or assailed in court. If you are unsure whether a particular conversation is privileged, ask your attorney.

At Bond James Bond, we know that any arrest or trial can be stressful. That’s why we work hard to secure a pretrial release for our clients. Pretrial release lets you maintain family relationships, stay employed, and take a more active role in your own defense. Our licensed and experienced bond agents are ready to work with you to ensure that you meet all court-required appearances. Don’t await trial in jail—contact Bond James Bond today!

Bond, James Bond, Inc. can handle any size or type of Georgia bail bonds in Barrow County, Bartow County, Cherokee County, Clarke County, Cobb County, Floyd County, Gordon County, Gwinnett County, Paulding County and Polk County. We are always open - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including holidays. We have 11 locations that are conveniently located to serve you better.