How Much Should You Tell Your Criminal Defense Attorney
There is any number of reasons why someone feels like hiding things from their attorney. But before you decide to keep things hidden, Tulsa criminal defense attorney Stephen Cale explains some things you should know about the attorney-client confidentiality.
First, Think About What Great Criminal Defense Attorneys Do For Their ClientsConsider what a great criminal defense attorney works hard to do:
* Protect the client*s freedom
* Hold the prosecution to a high burden of proof
* Ensure that clients get fair representation
So, while you might be worried about your case, withholding information from your attorney is not rational. In fact, it could even damage your case.
Understanding Attorney-Client ConfidentialityA criminal defense attorney may have to represent a client who admits guilt. But that doesn*t mean that all is lost. An aggressive criminal defense attorney will look for ways to get charges dismissed or dropped to a lesser charge, said Tulsa criminal defense attorney Stephen Cale.
And, if it*s what the client wants, he will work to negotiate a plea deal that involves probation * meaning no jail or prison time. The attorney also will aggressively fight the prosecution at jury trial and advocate for a not guilty verdict. But to effectively represent a client, it*s important that the client be open and honest.
*[Attorney-Client Confidentiality] contributes to the trust that is the hallmark of the client-lawyer relationship. The client is thereby encouraged to seek legal assistance and to communicate fully and frankly with the lawyer even as to embarrassing or legally damaging subject matter. The lawyer needs this information to represent the client effectively and, if necessary, to advise the client to refrain from wrongful conduct. Almost without exception, clients come to lawyers in order to determine their rights and what is, in the complex maze of law and regulations deemed to be legal and correct. Based upon experience, lawyers know that almost all clients follow the advice given, and the law is upheld.* * Comment 2, of Rule 1.6 of the Oklahoma Rules of Professional Conduct
Attorneys have a general duty to protect information that the client has revealed to them. This is called attorney-client confidentiality. It*s similar to attorney-client privilege, which is an evidentiary rule. An attorney risks his or her license to practice law by not adhering to attorney-client confidentiality. For attorneys practicing in Oklahoma, attorney-client confidentiality is governed by Rule 1.6 of the Oklahoma Rules of Professional Conduct.
The General Rule Of Attorney-Client ConfidentialityAs a general rule, a lawyer may not reveal information relating to the representation of the client unless a) the client gives informed consent or b) the disclosure is impliedly authorized in order to carry out the representation. For example, a lawyer may be impliedly authorized to admit an undisputed fact. Or, lawyers in a firm may disclose to each other information relating to the firm*s client, unless the client has instructed that particular information be confined to specified lawyers. There are some exceptions to the general confidentiality rule.
Exceptions To Attorney-Client ConfidentialityThere are six instances in which an attorney may reveal confidential information. These exceptions rarely come about. When it comes to criminal defense, the main exceptions to confidentiality are:
* to prevent reasonably certain death or substantial bodily harm;
* to prevent the client from committing a crime;
* to prevent the client from committing a fraud that is *reasonably certain* to bring about a substantial injury to the financial interests or property of another
But What If I AM Guilty? Should I Still Tell My Attorney Everything?So, what if you really did commit the crime that you*re charged with? Should you be upfront and tell this to your attorney? Should you keep it a secret in hopes of giving you a better chance of winning your case? Remember, in some instances, criminal defense attorneys represent people who are indeed guilty.
But that*s not the end of the story. Even if you are guilty, there may be a chance to beat the charge. This can be done by filing pretrial motions to get the case dismissed. A criminal defense attorney can also make motions during a trial to get charges dismissed. At other times, a jury may find a person not guilty because the prosecution did not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. And, even if the charge cannot be beaten, there may be a chance at keeping you out of jail or prison through probation.
Generally, criminal defense attorneys need to know as much information about your case in order to present the best possible legal defense. Without this information, they simply cannot defend you to the best of their ability.
In some cases, this information might include admitting your guilt. This is especially true if there is a lot of evidence that you are guilty or the prosecution has a strong case. In these circumstances, it might not be in your best interest to insist on your innocence and risk a jury trial. In fact, it might be to your advantage to work with your attorney and plead guilty or no contest in exchange for a reduced sentence or probation.