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Would it be wise for an active drug trafficker to hold a criminal defense lawyer on retainer?

New York, NY |

How would a lawyer be able to help asomeone engaged in ongoing federal drug trafficking crimes? Would lawyer-client confidientiality hold up in the case of ongoing criminal activity?

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Attorney answers 4


A lawyer cannot take part in criminal activities. Some people like to have lawyers on retainer to ensure immediate response from the lawyer should a legal need arise.

I am a former federal and State prosecutor and have been doing criminal defense work for over 16 years. I was named to the Super Lawyers list as one of the top attorneys in New York for 2012 and 2013. No more than 5 percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by Super Lawyers. Martindale-Hubbell has given me its highest rating - AV Preeminent - in the areas of Criminal Law, Personal Injury, and Litigation. According to Martindale-Hubbell”AV Preeminent is a significant rating accomplishment - a testament to the fact that a lawyer's peers rank him or her at the highest level of professional excellence." Fewer than 8% of attorneys achieve an AV Preeminent rating. I also have the highest ranking – “superb” – on Avvo. Feel free to check out my web site and contact me. The above answer, and any follow up comments or emails is for informational purposes only and not meant as legal advice.


If a lawyer was considered to be part of the conspiracy they could be facing charges along with the client. Having an attorney on retainer for an ongoing criminal enterprise could bar them from future representation of certain clients. It should be no problem finding representation once an arrest or investigation has started.

I have been a criminal attorney in New York for almost 25 years. website: Phone #: 718-208-6094 email: This answer is only for informational purposes and is not meant as legal advice.


It would be wiser for the drug trafficker to stop now. There may be substantial ethical issues if a lawyer is retained and knows his client is engaged in ongoing criminal activity. There is also the issue of involvement in a conspiracy or the drug trafficking if the lawyer is dumb enough to get involved in any way. There have been attacks on the lawyer-client privilege to limit what is protected communication; this type of scenirio may become problematic with respect to what is protected communication and what isn't.


My colleagues are correct. The criminal activity must stop or the attorney faces potential criminal and ethical issues. The exception is if the client is on retainer to address an active investigation. The attorney can advise you of your rights and act as a liaison between you and law enforcement. It sometimes allows your client to be first in line for special consideration. To be clear, no ethical lawyer will help you if he is aware he is covering up for ongoing criminal activity. The attorney client privilege is meant to protect confidentiality with regard to past conduct, not ongoing and future conduct.