The American Bar Association (ABA) recently filed a report about prosecutors obtaining video recordings of attorney-client meetings from private-run prisons. This absolutely confirms that law enforcement officers and prosecutors are attempting to listen to confidential communications in violation of the law.
See the ABA story at this link.
In 2003, I was working on the Major Crimes Team at the Fresno County Public Defender’s Office. My boss came into my office and told me I needed to go to one of the local Police Departments because they had a person in custody who wanted a public defender present when he gave the police a statement.
What?!? Were they kidding? They had to know I was going to tell my client to SHUT UP and not give any statement!
So I drove over to this Police Department and was quickly ushered into an interview room where I met my client. I told the officer escorting me that any conversation with my client in private was confidential under the attorney-client privilege and any eavesdropping or recording would be a crime under Penal Code section 636. Of course, the officer told me, left us alone and closed the door.
I introduced myself and while I was doing that I handed my client a note I had written while in the parking lot telling my client the officers were listening regardless of what they said. He acknowledged the contents of the note and the two of us proceeded to have two simultaneous conversations—one verbal that was nothing but general background information and one written in which I asked him what was really going on.
What I learned is that my client had hidden a critical piece of evidence after committing a crime. The police had been looking for this evidence for several weeks. After analyzing the facts of the case, it appeared that telling the police where the evidence was located would actually be good for my client and help him with the defense case I was formulating.
I left the interview room and confirmed with the investigating officer they still had no idea where this critical piece of evidence was located and they had been looking for several weeks. So, we agreed to disclose the location.
I went back into the room and handed my client a note telling him this so he could decide if he really wanted to do this, and before I could stop him, he verbally told me where the evidence was located. A few minutes later, I went back out and told the officer my client would show him the location of the evidence.
It took a few minutes to arrange for transportation to take me, my client, and several officer to the location of the evidence. As we were walking out to the vehicles, the investigating officer told me several patrol officers had just found the evidence “on their own.”
My client went through with this agreement and directed the officer to the location of the evidence. My client was charged and prosecuted for several serious felonies.
The case was eventually resolved without my client going to prison. During negotiations, the issue of serious police misconduct was raised and had an impact on the outcome of the case.
As far as I know, the officers involved were never disciplined. I was told, but cannot confirm, that a later civil action was settled between my former client and the law enforcement agency with a confidentiality clause prohibiting my former client from discussing the details of the settlement.
Are the police listening to privileged conversations between clients and their attorneys? I believe there are a few rogue law enforcement officers who engage in this kind of illegal behavior routinely. Not many, but definitely some.
So, if you find yourself in the custody of law enforcement, ALWAYS ASSUME THEY ARE LISTENING!
If you are looking for an experienced, reliable criminal defense attorney who knows how to turn police misconduct to the benefit of the client, and will provide you with the best defense available, schedule an appointment on this web site or call to set up a time to meet and discuss your case.