FindLaw Legal Dictionary
The FindLaw Legal Dictionary -- free access to over 8260 definitions of legal terms. Search for a definition or browse our legal glossaries.
[Latin privilegium law affecting a specific person, special right, from privus private + leg- lex law]
1 : a right, license, or exemption from duty or liability granted as a special benefit, advantage, or favor: as
a : an exemption from liability where an action is deemed to be justifiable (as in the case of self-defense) or because of the requirements of a position or office
: the affirmative defense that an action is privileged compare excuse
: a privilege that exempts a person from liability esp. for defamation regardless of intent or motive
: a privilege that exempts high public officials (as legislators) from liability for statements made while acting in their official capacity without regard to intent or malice
: a privilege esp. in the law of defamation that may be defeated esp. by a showing of actual malice called also conditional privilege
b : an exemption from a requirement to disclose information (as for trial) that is granted because of a relationship or position that demands confidentiality [the attorney-client ] [the doctor-patient ] [the marital ] [the priest-penitent ] see also confidential communication
deliberative process privilege
: a privilege exempting the government from disclosure (as in discovery) of government agency materials containing opinions, recommendations, and other communications that are part of the decision-making process within the agency
: a privilege exempting the executive branch of government from disclosing communications if such disclosure would adversely affect the functions and decision-making process of that branch see also United States v. Nixon in the Important Cases section NOTE: Executive privilege is based on the separation of powers doctrine. In United States v. Nixon, the Supreme Court held that this privilege is not absolute and that without a claim of a need to protect military, diplomatic, or national security secrets, the need for evidence in a criminal trial will outweigh a general assertion of executive privilege.
: the privilege of the government to withhold the identity of an informant who has provided evidence for a criminal trial called also informer's privilege
: reporter's privilege in this entry
privilege against self-incrimination
: a privilege under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protecting a person from compulsion to make self-incriminating statements
: a privilege protecting a reporter from compulsion to reveal information acquired in the course of gathering news called also journalist's privilege
c : something specially permitted or granted as a matter of discretion that may be limited or taken away [right to…mooring permit is not necessarily created because discretionary state was generously granted in [the] past "National Law Journal"] compare right
d in the civil law of Louisiana
: a right of a creditor conferred by the nature of a debt to have priority over the debtor's other creditors
2 : any of various fundamental or specially sacred rights considered as particularly guaranteed to all persons by a constitution and esp. by the privileges and immunities clause of the U.S. Constitution
Source: Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law ©1996. Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. Published under license with Merriam-Webster, Incorporated.