Should You Tell Your Lawyer if You Are Guilty of a Crime?
If you have been charged with a crime that you are guilty of, you may be wondering just how much you should tell your lawyer. Should you tell them the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, or should you withhold the fact that you are guilty and hope that he will get you off? That decision can be tricky and can backfire either way depending on the circumstances and the seriousness of the crime. Consider these facts before you decide how much to reveal to your lawyer.
Aren't you required to tell your lawyer the truth?
You are required by law to tell the truth in court or risk perjury, but there is no law that requires you to tell your lawyer every detail. Many lawyers prefer to know everything so they can defend you properly, but you can't be charged with perjury if you omit facts when telling your lawyer your story. You lawyer will ask you questions and may tell you specifically what he does or does not want to know.
Can the lawyer tell others if you tell him you are guilty?
Any conversation you have with your lawyer that is held in private place where no one else can reasonably be expected to overhear the conversation is privileged. That means your lawyer cannot disclose the information, even if he is asked in court.
However, there are some instances when your lawyer can disclose your conversation or may be asked to testify in court. These include talking to your lawyer with someone else present (like a family member or friend) who is not part of the attorney-client relationship, sharing the conversation with others after you talk to the lawyer (with the exception of sharing it with your spouse), having a conversation in a public place, talking to your lawyer on the phone where others may hear the conversation or other circumstances where the conversation is not held in private.
How could telling your lawyer you are guilty hurt your case?
You lawyer has a legal obligation to defend you and to try to prove the prosecutor's case leaves room for other interpretations or casts doubt on your guilt. But, he also cannot submit evidence he knows to be false and cannot knowingly allow you to commit perjury.
He can still defend you and work to poke holes in the prosecutor's case, but he cannot allow you to testify to your innocence and cannot introduce evidence he knows is false to prove your innocence if you have told him you are guilty of the crime. Failure to testify to your own innocence may be perceived as a sign of guilt by the judge or jury.
How can telling your lawyer everything be helpful?
The more your lawyer knows about the events that lead to the crime and the circumstances involved, the better able he will be to form a solid defense. He cannot prepare a defense for information he is not aware of and may find himself struggling to create a strong defense if the prosecution suddenly introduces new evidence that takes him by surprise. He may also be able to mount a defense for a lesser crime.
For example, if your actions resulted in the death or injury of another party, but you did not have the intent to inflict harm, you lawyer can bring the extenuating circumstances to light. Likewise, if you accidentally injured or killed someone when you fought back out of fear or you believed the other person was an immediate danger to you or someone you love, you lawyer can bring up a history of abuse or other circumstances that may have contributed to your actions.
Telling your lawyer the whole truth is often expected and works best to protect your interests. However, there may be times when your lawyer lets you know that he does not want the minute details of the incident, either because he does not want to know if you are guilty or because he sees potential problems that may arise if he is privy to that information. To learn more about your rights, contact firms like The Law Office of Israel S Hernandez, PLLC.