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Privilege is an exception or immunity to certain requirements that other individuals are bound by. In the common law, things or people that are privileged are exempt from the requirement to testify or produce documents in certain situations.


Privilege is a right given to the speaker, as a matter of public policy, to encourage complete disclosure in specific relationships. Privilege belongs to the speaker alone, and not to the attorney. As such, only the client may waive this right.

For example, a client may testify to privileged information as between himself and his attorney but the attorney may not, except with the consent of the client. Privilege exists within the below-listed relationships and can extend in most cases beyond the life of the speaker.


Within the law, privileged communications may be disclosed if doing so will save a life, prevent the complete financial ruin of an individual or in defense of a malpractice suit by a client.

In the case of a doctor or psychotherapist, if there is information that indicates the patient poses a danger to the life or another, the professional is obligated to inform authorities before such an act can take place.

Types of privileged relationships[]

  • Lawyer-client
  • Doctor-patient
  • Spouses
  • Clergy-communicant
  • Psychotherapist-patient

See also[]