One of the sticky issues that comes up as a criminal defense attorney is the idea of a client admitting guilt to their attorney. If a client comes to me, sometimes they come with the pre-conception that a lawyer’s job is “to help the court get to the truth”. Or that I might not want to take them on as a client if I discover they’re guilty, so they feel like they need to cover it up.
But honestly, none of those things are really true – and that goes for both the prosecution or the defense.
A trial is based about what can be proven. Nothing more. The job of a lawyer is not “to help the court get to the truth”, but rather to represent their client and make their case to the absolute best of their ability.
This is why lawyers and their clients enjoy something called “attorney-client privilege”.
This privilege starts the moment you contact a lawyer about taking your case, and extends the length of the entire attorney-client relationship. This privilege allows clients to be completely honest with their lawyers when it comes to the facts of their case, so their lawyer can defend them in the best possible way.
When you look at it that way, the truth stops being a chain that weighs you down – it becomes a useful tool in your own defense. And because it’s such a useful tool, it’s absolutely crucial that you tell your lawyer everything – even if you believe you’re guilty!
The reality is, guilt and innocence do matter – but not nearly as much as you’d think. If you’re innocent, but it looks like you’re guilty, you can have just as big of a problem as somebody that actually committed the crime. And if you’re guilty, the prosecution still has the responsibility to obey the law, to follow the rules, and to treat you properly.
The key is that your lawyer needs to know the truth so that they can pick the best defense strategy.
If you’re completely innocent, there are useful defensive strategies that can take advantage of that fact. If you’re guilty, there are different defensive strategies that can be used to weaken or even eliminate the case against you. And if you’re completely honest with your lawyer, they can pick the strategies that will give you the best chance of making your case go away!
Are there exceptions? Yes, but they’re very limited. The main exemption from this “attorney-client privilege” is information about certain future crimes. If you tell me that you’re about to commit additional crimes, particularly crimes that involve harm to a person, I can’t keep that confidential. I have to let people know. And based on my knowledge, I can’t put you in a position to – or knowingly allow you to – make false statements in court. Apart from those things though, the lines of communication are wide open!
One of the things I take a lot of pride in as an attorney is that my clients can be extremely open and honest with me. I don’t just want to hear the facts of your case, but I want to hear your story. And once you trust me with your story, I promise to do my absolute best to get you an outcome that lets you put your case behind you and move on with your life.
So if you need a lawyer, and you want one that actually listens, you know what to do. Give me a call today!