After an arrest, many people immediately want to talk to a spouse, loved one, or friend. It’s human nature to reach out to someone in times of crisis. When you are scared and worried about your future, you want to talk to someone about it. When you’re in jail, you want to do everything you can to get out. As a Birmingham, Alabama Criminal Lawyer, I have personally seen numerous charges levied against criminal defense clients as a result of recorded conversations over the phone. Remember that calls to and from your attorney are confidential communications, but they are often still recorded. Any information you provide could still be used against you out-side of court in other ways.
What many people fail to realize is that jailhouse phone calls are rarely private. In many cases, police and other authorities may be listening in. When they are not actively listening, they could still be recording calls placed by inmates.
In fact, some inmates divulge incriminating details about themselves and offenses even when they have been warned not to. According to one criminal investigator, many jails play a recording before phone calls that advises inmates their calls are being monitored. Despite this warning, inmates discuss criminal acts over the phone.
Jailhouse Phone Calls Can Lead to Convictions
There are many case examples of inmates discussing incriminating details over the phone. In California, for example, a man spoke to a reporter over the phone from jail. Although he told the reporter his comments were “off the record,” they certainly weren’t off the record for the FBI agent who was listening in on the call.
In another case out of Virginia, a man pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter after admitting to his wife during a call from jail that he had taken a powerful pain reliever before causing the car crash that killed the victims. When the prosecution threatened to introduce his phone call at trial, he chose to plead guilty. In another call, which took place shortly before his sentencing, he admitted he didn’t feel guilty about the crash. The second call may have factored into the judge’s decision to sentence him to 20.5 years in prison – a sentence more than half the sentence recommended by Virginia law.
Although calls between criminal defendants and their attorneys are supposed to be protected by the attorney-client privilege, reports have surfaced of jail officials recording these phone calls, too. In one case in Washington, the court dismissed assault charges against an inmate after discovering his phone calls with his lawyer had been illegally recorded.
Discuss Your Case with Your Attorney
After an arrest, your first instinct may be to call a loved one and pour your heart out. After all, you need the emotional support and guidance of a close friend, spouse, or other family member. You want a chance to tell your side of the story and to clear your name with the people you care about. This is very normal, but it may not be in your best interest. Because you never know who is listening in, it’s best to discuss the details of your arrest and your case with your attorney and only your attorney. No matter how much you think you can trust someone, your conversations may not be protected or privileged. When you speak to your lawyer in person, however, the law protects the things you tell your lawyer. There are some important exceptions to this rule, such as when a client makes comments to his or her lawyer with the intention of covering up or furthering a crime or a fraud, but in most cases the information you tell your attorney is protected.