Do criminal defense lawyers prefer their client to be 100% honest with them?
Being 100% honest with your lawyer is a mixed bag. There are advantages and disadvantages to being 100% honest. Accordingly, we will discuss the separate components of this honesty below. This article should not influence your decisions. Instead, your criminal defense lawyer should be your guide. This article simply discusses some of the ins and outs of being honest.
First, we consider a criminal defense lawyer’s job. To fight or not to fight? Clients want their lawyer to fight for them. Many clients fear a lack of zealousness. For example, “If I tell the lawyer the truth will he fight for me?” This is a common concern. However, criminal defense lawyers are not primarily concerned about innocence. Remember, a huge part of the job is mitigation. Even if a person is guilty of a crime, it doesn’t mean they deserve an unfair sentence. Fighting for a fair sentence or a fair plea is a large part of the job. Without honesty, it’s often difficult for a lawyer to present your story to the prosecution.
Conversely, if you are truly innocent then there is no downside to you being truthful. Your lawyer will investigate your story. He will build credible leads. Ultimately, your truth will be your defense.
However, most good lawyers do not ask whether you are guilty or not guilty upfront. Most lawyers try to understand the state’s case. Next, they want to understand the holes in the state’s case. Last, they want to see if you can provide additional holes and defenses. Many great defenses never require you relaying your entire story. If you are truly innocent of the crime, you will want to quickly let your lawyer know everything up front. This will help the process get started quickly. If you are guilty of the offense, let your lawyer guide you.
Unfortunately, some lawyers insist on knowing the truth. These lawyers may even hold it against their clients. To be clear, this is unfair and should not be the standard. Yet, unfortunately, it is too common.
In some cases, the truth can be your best defenses. As discussed, true innocence can be explored. Your lawyer will investigate Alibis, other suspects, and falsified statements. However, don’t create an alternate truth. Lawyers are on your team. Giving intentionally false information will only hinder your defense. In many defenses, clients tell the lawyer what they think they want them to hear. This is destructive in a number of ways. First, your lawyer will be burdened with investigating a false narrative. Second, your lawyer will be less likely to present realistic mitigation to the State. Third, it creates unrealistic expectations for your case.
For example, let’s assume you start a false narrative. You state that you weren’t at the scene of the Burglary. However, you were there. But let’s assume the real truth is you played a minor role and didn’t know it was a Burglary. The difference between a minor participant and a non participant is quite different. This narrative grows and becomes the expectation for the case. In many instances, the client will force their own version of justice. “I wasn’t there” so I shouldn’t have any consequences. In reality, the lawyer may be able to work out a fair deal. But by sticking to the false narrative, nobody is being honest about the resolution.
Remember, the truth can help mitigation. A mere limited participant might get a probation deal. An untruthful defendant forcing trial might get multiple years in prison. Same person, drastically different results. Give your lawyer the tools to succeed. Don’t give false narratives and don’t rely on false narratives. Your lawyer will guide you though. Once you hire your lawyer, give them their chance to bring you through the system.
Can a lawyer flat out lie to the jury or to the Court? The answer is no. If you give knowingly false statements to your lawyer, you may be stuck with your answer. For example, in a murder case you tell your lawyer, “I was there but I didn’t kill her.” Evidence comes to light that the State can’t prove you were there. The lawyer is no longer allowed to present evidence of an alibi defense. That’s because the lawyer knows the truth. A lawyer is limited by ethics. Specifically, a lawyer cannot knowingly present false evidence.
Remember, as a general rule, be careful immediately telling the truth unless it’s based on true innocence. Hold off on false narratives and full confessions of guilt. Again, your lawyer will guide you here. Let them discuss alternate narratives and the advantage of a full confession to your lawyer.
Understand, the Attorney-client privilege protects your statements to your lawyer. Nothing in here says otherwise. This is merely to say that your statements may limit what your lawyer can present to the court. Therefore, be careful and limit your statements. Your lawyer has been down this road and will help you.
Your Best Defense
The truth may be your best defense. However, it may not be your best defense. Don’t hamstring your lawyer early on. Allow your attorney to do their job. You can help them significantly by trusting the process and allowing them to navigate the case.
What’s a plea to the bench? A plea to the bench is an open plea to a judge. In those pleas the judge can sentence you to whatever they want. For example, you decide to admit your guilt and allow the judge to sentence you. Honesty in your involvement is often your best route when doing a blind plea.
What about attacking reasonable doubt? In some cases, the Defense may not present a specific story. The Defense simply attacks the state’s case. Witnesses are called to provide other reasonable options for a jury to decide. The real truth is never actually told. In this type of defense, the lawyer doesn’t always want to hear the truth. This allows a zealous defense of your case.
In summary, the truth may set you free. However, in some cases the truth may actually hurt. Allow your lawyer to walk you through the evidence. They will help navigate the process in the best possible way. As always, rely on your lawyer.
If you have questions about your case, give us a call. Smith & Eulo Law Firm. 407-930-8912. We’ll look at your case and give you a free consultation.