If you’re charged with a crime, you have a right to a fair trial – and a zealous defense, but does that mean you really should tell your attorney everything, even if you’re guilty?
Absolutely. While you may approach the situation with some misgivings, especially if you’re carrying some guilt over the charges, the reality is that you’re not doing yourself any favors by not leveling with your legal representation. Here’s what you need to know:
Everything you say to your attorney is private
There’s something called an attorney-client privilege, and it’s one of the cornerstones of the justice system in this country. Generally, anything you say to your attorney in private is considered absolutely confidential.
With only a few exceptions to this rule (including the need to prevent certain other crimes that haven’t yet been committed), your attorney cannot divulge anything you say to the prosecution, the judge or anybody else. Your secrets are safe.
Your attorney is there to protect you, not judge you
Frankly, your attorney may not be able to build a good defense strategy unless you reveal all of the details of your involvement with a crime.
Your attorney cannot allow you to perjure yourself on the stand, so you cannot tell your attorney you’re guilty of slugging a guy in a bar and then get on the witness stand and deny it – but your attorney can help you examine other defense strategies that work with your situation. For example, maybe you threw that punch because:
- The other guy made credible verbal threats against you or someone else nearby
- The other guy had already physically attacked you and you were defending yourself
- There were mitigating factors involved, such as intoxication or a mental health crisis
If you deny your involvement entirely, the odds are high that your defense is going to be sandbagged by some evidence in the prosecution’s hands, and that’s not what you want to happen.
It’s scary to find yourself on the wrong side of the law, but everybody deserves to have their legal rights protected – and that’s best done when you have a fully informed defense.